The Glass House (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)


The Glass House has, deep inside of it somewhere, the core of a good thriller. It has an excellent premise, four good actors, a creepy setting, and lavish production values. 

But something went wrong. The film got lost in a maze of implausibility and unrealistic behavior.

The premise is this: two kids, 11 and 16, are orphaned when their parents suddenly die in a car accident. It seems that the situation will get resolved in a reasonable manner when they are placed with the Glasses, friends of their parents who have a swanky house overlooking the Ocean in Malibu. The Glasses seem genuinely concerned about them, and the kids find out that they have no financial worries because of a four million dollar trust set up by their parents.

Of course, the plot gradually reveals that the Glasses are not what they are supposed to be. Apparently Mr Glass is in deep with some nasty mob boys, and is only taking care of the kids so he can milk their trust fund by asking for money to send them to non-existent private schools and doctors, etc. 


none. Leelee Sobieski went swimming in her bikini or bikini underwear.
Since it is a "thriller", I won't spoil any more of it, but the promising set-up is ruined by completely silly actions.

1) The Glasses live in a mansion, but they put the two kids (different sexes) in the same tiny room, thereby immediately arousing the suspicion of the teenage girl.

2) When the girl (Leelee Sobieski) reports the single room situation to Child Services, a social worker makes a surprise visit to the house, but it turns out that the Glasses are prepared for this! They show the social worker two rooms.

See the logical gaps here? If they had two rooms prepared all along, why not just let the kids live in them? If they really want to defraud the trust fund, their whole plan should be to appear loving and trustworthy as long as possible. Instead, they do crazy stuff that arouses the kids' suspicions and gets Leelee running to Social Welfare Agencies. That wasn't the only example. Daddy Glass acts suspicious in many ways, almost seeming to to be hitting on Leelee, and deliberately doing her homework after she fell asleep - a seeming act of kindness, but done in a way that would get her caught for plagiarism! 

Why would he do that? Why would he do anything that would cause the kids to suspect him in any way? The whole plot made no sense, and Stellan Skarsgaard played the role of the foster father as if he were wearing a stovepipe hat, a black cape, and twirling a long moustache. Sure, very unsuspicious. I wonder why the screenwriter didn't make his name Snidely Whiplash.

The other major weakness of the plot was anti-climax. I'm nor sure of the Guinness record for "longest running time of film after the last thing happened", but this has to be a contender. The film ends with a completely unnecessary visit to the cemetery. It isn't enough that the entire scene has no purpose, but even within that scene there is dragging which serves no purpose. In fact, even the scene before that could have ended earlier, or could have concluded while the credits rolled. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, and a full screen version. it looks good.

  • Full-length director commentary

  • one deleted scene

Finally, I had to create some new Scoopian Unities for this film. Roger Ebert has joked that it's not possible to make a good film which includes hot air balloons, but that rule seems to be belied by The Wizard of Oz and Around the World in 80 Days.

I have some alternate suggestions, however:

1. It is not possible to make a good movie where the good guy is deep diving and the bad guy is operating the air line.

2. It is not possible to make a good movie where the good guy has to drive a car down a winding mountain road, and the bad guy is his brake and steering mechanic.

This film falls into the latter category.  

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 1.5/4, Apollo 68/100.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 21% positive reviews, but only 7% from the top reviewers.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.5/10, Apollo users 60/100
  • With their dollars ... it wasn't a smash, hit, but it took in $17 million domestic. It was budgeted at $22 million, and played on about 1600 screens.  
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. Watchable thriller, but I found the behavior inconsistencies to be very irritating.

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