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Film review: ‘Disturbia’ is fumbled at finale

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Shia LaBoeuf, with Carrie-Anne Moss, stars in "Disturbia."

Shia LaBoeuf, with Carrie-Anne Moss, stars in “Disturbia.”

Susan Tenner, Dreamworks Pictures

DISTURBIA — ** 1/2 — Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer, David Morse; rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, vulgarity, brief gore, brief sex, brief partial nudity, brief drugs).

"Disturbia" is two-thirds of a good movie. This suspense-thriller features likable characters and has a killer premise reminiscent of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic "Rear Window."

Filmmaker D.J. Caruso builds tension for the first hour, but then he and two credited screenwriters fumble with a poorly thought-out and unconvincing finale.

Still, "Disturbia" does give us a hero to root for in Kale Brecht, played by rising star Shia LaBeouf ("The Greatest Game Ever Played"). He's a troubled teen who feels responsible for a car accident that killed his father (Matt Craven).

To make matters worse, Kale has recently punched out one of his teachers and now finds himself confined to house arrest for three months, with a monitoring bracelet on his ankle.

To kill time, he's taken to spying on his neighbors, including pretty new arrival Ashley Carson (Sarah Roemer). Kale is also keeping a close eye on a more sinister figure, Robert Turner (David Morse), whom he believes is connected to a series of mysterious disappearances.

The script was co-written by Carl Ellsworth, who also co-wrote "Red Eye," a film that had similar third-act problems.

Ellsworth and his co-writer Christopher B. Landon can't figure out what to do with the character of Kale's mother, though actress Carrie-Anne Moss does what she can to flesh her out. (As does Morse with what turns out to be a thankless role.)

But this really is LaBeouf's vehicle, and he proves to be an appealing star presence. He's believable as the increasing agitating voyeur and has considerable chemistry with Roemer and Aaron Yoo, who plays Kale's helpful pal.

"Disturbia" is rated PG-13 for violent imagery and strong violence (beatings, violence against women and vehicular mayhem), scattered profanity, some vulgar sexual humor and other questionable humor, brief gore, brief sexual contact, brief partial female nudity (skimpy swimsuits and an adult film), and brief drug references. Running time: 104 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com