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Updating a classic

\"Rear Window\" remake hits all the right buttons

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If they had to remake “Rear Window” — and it was inevitable — this is the way to do it: with an appealingly sullen teen hero, lots of nifty surveillance gadgets in place of James Stewart’s telephoto lens, and a romantic interest who looks like Gisele Bundchen’s younger sister.  This homage to the classic is so savvy and fun that Hitchcock purists shouldn’t dare to complain. 

Shia LaBeouf plays Kale, a good kid who witnesses his father’s death in a car accident.  Kale blames himself.  A year later, he’s troubled and acting out.  When he clocks his Spanish teacher, it’s his third run-in with the law.  He is sentenced to house arrest for three months. 

His frustrated mother (Carrie-Anne Moss) deprives him of iTunes, his Xbox and his television.  With his ankle monitor on, he can’t even leave his yard without alerting the police. 

What’s left?  His binoculars and his neighbors. 

The good news: The lovely Ashley (Sarah Roemer) moves in next door, a girl with a propensity for frequently changing tops (when she’s not swimming laps in a red bikini).  The bad news: Another neighbor, Robert Turner (David Morse), has an awful lot in common with a serial killer on the loose.  Since Turner even sports Raymond Burr’s white hair, you can see where this is going.  Kale has a videocam and all summer to sit around.  And so the stakeout begins. 

Written by Christopher Landon (Michael’s son) and Carl Ellsworth, “Disturbia” combines elements of teen alienation, first crushes, buddy pictures and amped-up thrillers.  Director D.J. Caruso (“Two for the Money”) strikes just the right tone, moving effortlessly between youthful goofing and the possibility of something much darker.  Morse, an actor who is so effective as the hangdog nice guy, is chilling here, even before you learn that there is a bloody bag of something in his garage that “smells like a rotting hottie.” 

At first, LaBeouf seems miscast.  You can put a Ramones T-shirt on him, but as Kale, he still looks more squeaky clean-cut than depressed juvenile delinquent.  So it’s to his credit that he wins the audience over with his snarky mouth and a streak of lovable awkwardness.  The ace child actor (Disney’s “Even Stevens” and 2003’s “Holes”) is making his transition to older roles with genuine John Cusack potential. 

The animated Aaron Yoo provides reliable comic relief as Kale’s best friend and leg man.  I suppose that means he has the Thelma Ritter role. 

The colorful glimpses of Kale’s neighborhood are a reminder that video games have nothing on the drama of everyday life.  The themes of “Disturbia” and “Rear Window” are the same: peek in somebody’s window, and you’re bound to get an eyeful.  Granted, “Disturbia” isn’t on the level of a Hitchcock masterpiece — but it’s too smart to try to be.

Disturbia ★★★

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Carrie-Ann Moss, Sarah Roemer and David Morse

Director: DJ Caruso

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of terror and violence and for some sensuality

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