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Movie Review

Domestic Disturbance

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, brief sexuality and language

Reviewed by: Douglas Downs

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Drama, Thriller
1 hr. 29 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 2, 2001
Relevant Issues
John Travolta in “Domestic Disturbance”
Parenting and divorce

Under what conditions may Christians divorce and remarry? Answer

Is formalized marriage becoming obsolete? Answer

What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer

Got teens from the Millennial generation? here’s some helpful parenting tips. Answer

Questions and answers about Family and Marriage Issues

Featuring: John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Teri Polo, Steve Buscemi, Matthew O'Leary
Director: Harold Becker
Producer: Harold Becker, Donald De Line
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

It Matthew O’Leary and Vince Vaughn in “Domestic Disturbance”. Photo copyright by Paramount Pictures. is disturbing to see the divorce rate in our country continue to grow. It is also alarming to note that almost 50% of all Americans now belong to a Blended Family. It is true that schedules, finances, discipline, and a long list of other challenges face couples that remarry. But there are many excellent resources available for making a positive transition. Dr. Richard Dobbins lists “The 10 Commandments for Stepparenting” on CBN’s Web site ( Focus on the Family, American Association of Christian Counselors, and the Web site, also provide an excellent place for information. The problem is many couples that remarry do not get help or counsel. It is disquieting to watch the incidents of child and spousal abuse also on the rise. Perhaps the above information will provide a start for making a loving transition in your home, if you find yourself in such a situation.

“Domestic Disturbance” continues a string of bad films for actor John Travolta. “The General’s Daughter,” “Lucky Numbers,” and “Battlefield Earth” have all been cinematic losers. The film “Swordfish” has even been released the same week as his new film to desperately try to generate some interest.

This is all quite surprising considering that veteran director, Harold Becker (“The Onion Field”) and writer Lewis Colick (“October Sky”) were involved. One thing is for sure: Christmas came early for Paramount Pictures. The PG-13 rating is a definite gift… in “DD” disturbing images include a 12-year-old child witnessing a brutal murder, a mother being physically assaulted and miscarrying, a son watching his father get pounded to a pulp, and a man graphically dying by electrocution.

John Travolta gets to play the good guy (maybe it’s “his turn” to do so) as Frank Morrison, a recently divorced boat builder in Maryland who longs to spend quality time with his son. Danny (Matt O’Leary) is the 12-year old boy caught in the middle of divorce. His mom, Susan (Teri Polo), has met the next Mr. Right and wants to remarry. The problem is Mr. Right, Rick Barnes (Vince Vaughn), is not what he seems. Danny is strongly opposed to the union and engages in lying and running away from home to get attention. Rick is quite wealthy and has the community eating out of his hand (just ask the Chamber of Commerce). Frank tries to give Danny some advice on acceptance and even takes the two of them sailing (isn’t that nice). Life seems to be fine until Ray Coleman (Steve Buscemi) shows up and reminds Rick of his past, leaving Rick no choice but to kill him. Can you guess which two characters are going to get into a big fight?

Borrowing from Aesop’s children’s story about the boy who cried wolf, no one believes Danny’s story about being an eyewitness to the murder. (This continues to give great substance to the Bible and all that it declares regarding the truth.)

There are many irks with “Domestic Disturbance” for those who like things to fit together. Firstly, when suspected murder is involved, a police investigation would never come to a close so lightly. I should know. I watch “Law and Order” every week with my wife. Secondly, Frank is a much better detective than professional detectives (not bad for a boat maker). Thirdly, we have lots of throw away lines that fill in the many holes in this script.

Morally, there is an excess of violence. Profanity includes 4 uses of the F-word (one of which is dubbed over—thanks for the concern). It is predictable from start to finish. This is a poor excuse for the standard “evil step parent” film. “The Glass House” almost has more suspense. That, in itself, is scary.

If you know of a blended family that is struggling, reach out to them. As a counselor, I meet with families like this regularly. The majority echo their feelings of isolation and a longing for some fellowship. Maybe you can provide what they need.

Viewer Comments
Negative—The thing that bothered me the most was the continual use of Jesus’ Name! The thing I liked the most? My very expensive popcorn. Sorry I went!
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 1½]
—Jerry, age 49
Negative—It was very sad for me to sit and watch the stepfather abuse (Danny), his stepson. I was glad that Danny’s real father (John Travolta) believed in him. That is so important in a father son relationship. With a world full of divorce, hatred, and child abuse—I have a real hard time calling this entertainment. The rating should have been (R) in my eyes. Children 13-17 should not view this!
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3½]
—Laurie Jenkinson, age 39
Neutral—I found Domestic Disturbance to be predictable, you could tell where the story was going easily. The CSM reviewer has a problem with the language, and as Christians we should, but would you really expect the bad guy (Vince Vaughn) to use socially correct euphemisms instead? It wouldn’t fit, nor would it fit with his nefarious friend, the guy he ends up murdering. As contrary to Biblical teaching as divorce (in the movie) is, and as destructive as it is to our society, it is a reality in our society. My real problem with his movie is that wasn’t so offensive as it was a waste of film. It had no substance to it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 2]
—B Crawley, age 33
Positive—From a young persons view I thought that the movie was great. I would not allow younger children to watch this film. That is why it is rated PG-13. The use of curse words and the hotel scene is only showing what goes on in the world today. I am not saying that it is right;however, it is reality. Teenagers can’t live in a shell all their lives. The movie teaches a good lesson about “crying wolf” and also that parents should listen to their kids and try to find out if they are lying or not. Just because kids are younger than you does not mean that you are smarter. Paul tells Timothy “don’t let anybody look down upon you because of your youth” and that happens in the movie. The mom and the cops automatically thought that the boy was making up the story. And for the record I think that John Travolta did an awesome job and he doesn’t need to retire.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Stacey Kellett, age 18
Negative—From the previews, I thought this movie was going to be about a boss and his employee. Instead, this movie was about a gay father and his son’s new father-in-law. I was amazed… Thank God my popcorn tasted so good…
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 1½]
—Gary Rhodes, age 24
Negative—This movie was yet another bomb from vet John Travolta. Like Stallone and others in their era, maybe it is time to RETIRE! Anyway, this movie was offensive on two levels. First of all, the CONSTANT use of the Lord’s name in vain inflicted that pain in the heart such disrespect and dishonor inflicts. You want to shout at them, “don’t you even know what you are saying?!?!?!” Secondly, however, this movie is offensive because it is a sorry excuse for a movie. The acting was bad, the editing was bad, the cinematography was bad, the lighting was bad, the writing was bad, the dialogue was bad… everything was simply… BAD. Oh, wait! The credits were kinda neat. But that was where “good” ended and “bad” began. I couldn’t stop shaking my head when it was over. It wasn’t scary, it wasn’t logical, it wasn’t suspenseful, it WAS predictable… I was actually quoting lines with the actors as they said them… and it was the first time I had seen it. Ridiculous movie, absolutely NO redeeming qualities, BIG waste.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 2½]
—Lori, age 27
Neutral—This was a pretty good movie. There is a mild joke about an adult bookstore, a man is shown in a bed with a girl (prostitute) who is wearing nothing but skanky underwear, there is living together outside of marriage, and a girl says a guy enjoyed screwing and baseball. The violence is there but it isn’t graphic at all, there is quite a bit of cussing including 1 f-word, and there is drinking and smoking.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3½]
—KE, age teen
Positive—…fair. There were violent scenes, which included the young boy being an eye witness to a murder and how the body was destroyed. I would not recommend this movie for children. The positive element in the movie was the father’s belief in his son when everyone else believed he was lying. The plot line was predictable, but somewhat suspenseful.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Jennifer, age 35
Movie Critics
…violent content is generally light until the climactic scene…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…3 F-words… 18 religious profanities [or exclamations]…
…good enough to satisfy audiences in need of a decent distraction…
—Michael Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter