The Glass House (PG-13)
As anyone who saw the previews for this slick piece of nothing knows, The Glass House is supposed to be a thriller. Unfortunately, the thrill is gone about 15 minutes into the movie when we understand, without having to think too hard, how the story is bound to play out.
Leelee Sobieski is Ruby, a California teenager whose parents are tragically killed in a car crash on their 20th wedding anniversary. Ruby and her little brother Rhett (Trevor Morgan) are put in the care of guardians and family friends Erin and Terry, played by Diane Lane and Stellan Skarsgard. Things look pretty cool for Ruby and Rhett as they drive up with their new guardians to their fabulous glass mansion in Malibu, but all is not as it seems.
Ruby quickly discovers that Terry's a lush, Erin's a junkie, Terry's in some deep financial doo-doo, and the children's trust fund is in danger of being sucked dry. What's a girl to do? Listen in on telephone conversations, plan her escape, steal the car, pout.
As the truth about Terry and Erin is revealed, we begin to wonder what else there is to this story. The answer is nothing. Bruce Dern plays an estate attorney who plays a small role in helping Ruby, but his interference is merely an excuse for an untimely murder and adds no new dimension to the plot.
Sobieski is one of the best teenage actresses around, and her creamy skin and dreamy voice do much to decorate the film. But we never see Ruby's true enterprising side, though we suspect it's there. Lane's character, too, is muted and thin. The most we know about her is that she's unnaturally pale and sleeps really soundly, both results of her unfortunate drug habit.
Skarsgard is the strongest presence in the film, sweaty and flushed. We expect him to have a stroke at any moment or to do something dastardly to one of the kids. The few moments of suspense in the film are provided by his acting, not by the screenplay.
As uninterested as I was in the movie, I was even further distracted on the Saturday evening when I saw it by the number of toddlers in the audience -- wide awake two- to four-year-olds, not sleeping babies. Believe me, as the mother of four kids I understand how hard it is to get a babysitter. But following last Tuesday's assault on actual humans in New York and Washington, I couldn't help but want to shield those little eyes from the numerous violent car crashes, physical attacks and scary situations in The Glass House, especially the part about Mommy and Daddy getting killed in a terrible car wreck after their brakes are disabled by their friend Terry the terrorist. C'mon parents, get a grip. That's not entertainment.
Equally distracting and disturbing was the grotesque amount of blatant product placement in the film. When the children turn their noses up at dinner, Erin cheerily announces, "I'll call Domino's." Ruby is constantly pecking on a bright orange IBook. Blockbuster is named more than once, as is Nintendo. When the family home goes up for sale, a red, white and blue Re-Max sign goes up front. AOL gets visual and aural plugs.
The filmmakers might as well have paused for commercial breaks given their lack of subtlety or, apparently, scruples.
So skip the overpriced ticket to this stinker. Instead, wait until it comes to Blockbuster on video or DVD. Then you can watch it in the comfort of your own home, sitting in your La-Z-Boy drinking a Budweiser. At least when you fall asleep, you won't have to wake up and drive home.