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“Good fences make good neighbors. Or you can just move.”

When I saw the preview for the new film thriller, Lake View Terrace, I sort of rolled my eyes. These films have been done over and over again. A young couple move into a new neighborhood only to be terrorized by the guy/girl/couple next door. Often, as is the case here, the one terrorizing happens to be part of the local police force and thus seems to be able to get away with what ever they want. Luckily this one has Samuel L Jackson which is one move in the right direction and possibly the saving element. This agenda fueled thriller was certainly entertaining but a little too heavy handed for its own good.

When Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa (Kerry Washington), a young interracial couple, move into an LA suburb they have hopes of settling in and beginning their life together. Right away they bump heads with Abel (Samuel L. Jackson), the stern, single parent next door who has a lot of rules and an apparent disapproval of Chris and Lisa’s relationship. Abel does everything he can to make their lives miserable which is the root of this films tension. I went home that night thanking God that my neighbors were in the ballpark of sane. I can’t imagine adding to the already over whelming stress of new home ownership. Also, in regards to the next door tension, the writers did a good job of keeping the situations somewhat realistic. I could imagine most of the scenarios popping up in everyday suburban life.

Lake View Terrace has all the right elements but doesn’t seem to know when to say when as it pertains to the root problem in the story. The interracial message and issues that arise from prejudice was very clear yet the writers felt like they had a point to make by bringing in every scenario they could manage. This redundancy caused the film to feel longer than it is and by the end you are just ready for it to be over with. True it is entertaining for the most part and Jackson is perfect as the hard nosed cop who seems to find no pleasure in life. He is intimidating, self destructive and easy to hate. But as much as you can’t stand his character you still love Samuel in the role. Abel is a character you can almost sympathize with as his story unfolds. Though he handles his problems in a negative fashion it shows how unchecked anger can become a dangerous beast.

There are very few surprises in this movie and the predictability is high so to truly enjoy it you need to go in and just have fun with it. Which is hard to do at times given the racial tension of the plot’s core. But it is doable. The stress runs high, which you need in this type movie, so in theory it does work. Lake View Terrace is rated PG-13 for intense thematic material, violence, sexuality, language and some drug references. It is safe for those over 13 and each of the mentioned content is not over done. I give it 3.5 out of 5 security lights. I think with the right mindset and the love to hate character of Abel, you may find this an entertaining film.

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com) (9/17/08)

“Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and hosts a daily online talk show along with a weekend radio feature, The Mungles on Movies, with his wife Cindy. For additional reviews, interview clips and great DVD giveaways, visit the website www.mungleshow.com”

Review copyright 2008 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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