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By Phil Hall | August 25, 2006

Jamie Babbit’s “The Quiet” is an anemic thriller about a wealthy Connecticut family whose abundance of secrets leads to nasty self-destruction. Scandalous behavior among the well-heeled New England set could easily be juicy fun, but this ain’t Cheever country, both literally and figuratively (the movie was made in Texas).

In the Deer home, daddy (Martin Donovan) is an architect who spends most of his time building up his sweaty eroticism for his bratty cheerleader teen daughter Nina (Elisha Cuthbert). Mama (Edie Falco, wearing Maria Falconetti’s hairdo from “The Passion of Joan of Arc”) is a would-be designer who pops prescription painkillers like they were Tic-Tacs. Into this nutty realm comes teenage Dot (Camilla Belle), who was adopted by the Deers after her father was killed in a hit-and-run incident. Dot is a deaf-mute and she has her own big secret – though it is not much of a secret because Babbit tips off the audience before the opening credits.

“The Quiet” tries to be as offensive and unpleasant as possible, but the clumsiness of the script, direction and acting makes it a so-bad-it’s-good diversion. As the incestuous abusive father, Donovan is as creepy and scary as a Monogram-era Bela Lugosi, while Falco’s idea of a pill-addicted adult is a weak imitation of Lucille Ball’s Vitametavegamin routine. Falco tries to make amends with a flash of bare breasts, which causes Donovan’s character to yawn (and, really, you cannot blame him).

As with most bad movies set among the teenage crowd, the actors playing the teens are clearly too old for their roles. And whatever youthful enthusiasm the cast presents doesn’t make up for their genuine lack of youth. Cuthbert and Belle are attractive and try to make this muck work, but they are stuck in one-note characters and become monotonous. Newcomer Katy Mixon, playing the outrageous school slut, chews the scenery with nary a burp of heartburn. Shawn Ashmore (Iceman in the “X-Men” franchise) is a decidedly non-athletic presence as the school jock while David Gallagher (late of TV’s “Seventh Heaven”) has a tiny role as a hanger-on to the teen antics (it would appear his role was excessively trimmed in post-production).

“The Quiet” is best for cheap laughs by jaded moviegoers with absolutely nothing better to do with their time.

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