Turn Back the Clock

Disturbing Behavior

Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            Have you ever heard of The Stepford Wives?  A town filled with perfect families, where there are wives who not only dote on their husbands, but keep perfect homes and seem uninterested in whatís going on in the world outside their homes.  A town where husband/wife arguments do not exist and wives seem to have no opinions of their own.  Translate that into a high school setting and you now have the 1998 sci-fi thriller called Disturbing Behavior.

            After the tragic death of his older brother, teenager Steve Clarkís (James Marsden) family decides to move to Cradle Bay, a quiet town on the water where his family can heal.  On his first day at school, he meets Gavin Strick (Nick Stahl), a pothead with the scoop on everyone at school.  He introduces Steve to the various cliques at the high school, taking special care to warn him against the Blue Ribbons, or ďfreaks so chiqueĒ as Gavinís equally weed-enhanced friend U.V. (Chad E. Donella) describes them.  Clean-cut and proper, this group frowns upon all who engage in the wrong sorts of activities: drinking, drugging, flunking, etc.

            The longer he is in town, the more suspicious Steve becomes about the Blue Ribbons, who seem to have a certain mean streak about them that tends to become somewhat violent.  Heís skeptical about Gavinís feelings regarding the Blue Ribbons, especially after Gavin relates the tale of murders he witnessed committed by a Blue Ribbon and covered up by the police.  Gavinís friend Rachel Wagner (Katie Holmes) doesnít quite believe in Gavinís town conspiracy theory and neither does Steve, until he witnesses a meeting of the Blue Ribbons and spots Gavinís parentsí arrival as new inductees. 

            The following day, Gavin enters the high school lunchroom as a clean-cut member of the Blue Ribbons, scorning his former friendships with extreme prejudice.  Frightened that they may be next, Steve and Rachel decide to do a little research on Dr. Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood), school psychologist and head of the Blue Ribbon program.  What they discover is not only revolting, but threatens to put the two teenagers on the Blue Ribbonsí hit list.  Can they stop what is happening in Cradle Bay before they become the townís next victims?

            Disturbing Behavior didnít do very well in the box office and most reviewers found reasons to pan the film.  I, however, actually like the movieís action and suspense and found the storyline credible.  What parent hasnít wanted their teenage son or daughter to be better behaved?  What parent doesnít worry that their kid wonít succeed in life or may fall into the wrong crowd?  What if they could do something about that?  What methods would they be willing to go through to ensure their childís success?

I found the characters of Steve, Gavin and Rachel to be intriguing.  I also enjoyed the school janitor Dorian (William Sadler) and really wished they would have delved a little into his history.  The charisma between James Marsden and Katie Holmes was definitely believable and the viewer actually roots for them as a couple to make it through this movie.  Nick Stahl plays his role perfectly.  In fact, after seeing this film, I was certain that Stahl would be getting better roles and I was right. 

The soundtrack of the film is incredible, featuring rocking songs like Flys' Got You (Where I Want You), Harvey Dangerís Flagpole Sitta and Janus Starkís Every Little Thing Counts and a spooky score by Mark Snow.

When I watched the DVD version of the film, I was treated to eleven deleted scenes which probably would have made the movie more enjoyable to audiences and critics alike had these scenes stayed in.  The scene about Steveís brother, Allen (Ethan Embry) and his death seemed important to the film, though it could have been slightly shorter.  That scene, coupled with the deleted scene in which Steveís mother finds the gun he has taken off of Gavin, goes a long way toward explaining why Steveís parents would be willing to enroll him in the Blue Ribbons.  The deleted scene of Dr. Caldicott discussing his daughter, though that, too, could have been shorter, would have been perfect for the film, going a long way toward making the doctor seem even more evil once the kids find out his daughter is actually locked in a mental institution.  And why cut the all-important love scene?  What sense did that make?  It seemed that the movieís creators hurt themselves most by deleting these important scenes.

            The only change I really concurred with was the new ending.  The original ending just didnít make much sense and wasnít scary enough.  I donít want to give things away by comparing the endings, but trust me Ė the ending that aired in movie theaters was, by far, the much better ending.

            Had the deleted scenes been included in the film, Disturbing Behavior would have been a much better film.  I found the version without the deleted scenes to be entertaining, so I could imagine how much I would have loved it were the deleted scenes included in the theatrical release.  That being said, if you enjoy science fiction along the lines of mind control and The Stepford Wives, this is a much younger and more fun version of the thriller.  After all these years, I still enjoy the film, even if the critics donít feel the same.


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