Whatever its shortcomings, director Jim Sheridan and stars Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Naomi Watts deserved better than the give-away-the-store trailer that Universal delivered for Dream House.
But screenwriter David Loucka? Oh yeah, he deserved a trailer that drops the film's big reveal on you before you buy your ticket. They would have done us all a favor by merely hinting at the eye-rolling lulu of a finale he cooked up for this faintly spooky, semi-supernatural thriller.
Craig plays Will, a New York book editor who quits his job and rides the train home to his lovely wife (Weisz) and two kids. He's going to write a book himself, and they're going to fix up their suburban Connecticut home.
"I feel so safe when you're here," she says, reciting a line straight out of Foreshadowing 101 in film school.
"I'm not going to go anywhere," Will says back, reading from the same textbook.
But first, there's the matter of what happened to the last family there. The neighbor lady (Watts) is close-mouthed about it. It was bad.
And it might be happening again. The children see a man in the window. There are footsteps in the snow. Goth teenagers hold strange candlelight rituals in the basement. And the cops are no help, even when Will blurts out "I bought the freaking crime scene!"
If you've seen that trailer, you know what comes next. And that revelation leaves the movie no maneuvering room. So many peripheral characters have stood out in earlier scenes that we know that Elias Koteas and Marton Csokas will have something to do with the solution to this not-that-mysterious mystery. So much is just so . . . obvious.
But the actors and director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In America) saw something here, so maybe you try to figure out what that was. Without rolling your eyes.
A happy memory - Craig met Weisz on this movie and they married in June. And they manage a poignant moment or two, to go along with the film's two decent chills. But something tells me they won't be treasuring photos or memories from this one in their "How we met" scrapbook.
The best wedding present Universal's suits could have given to the lovebirds would have been to shuttle this one, which they knew was damaged goods, straight to video.
Dream House *1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Jim Sheridan. With Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Naomi Watts. Distributed by Universal Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (faintly scary)
Playing at: area theaters