James Stewart (Rear Window), Shia LaBeouf (Disturbia)

Paramount Pictures, Dreamworks

How many lawyers did it take to determine that Disturbia was kinda like Rear Window? ('Cause the critics figured it out right away.)

The estate of the man who owned the rights to Rear Window has sued the folks behind Disturbia—including DreamWorks honcho Steven Spielberg, whose company produced the film—claiming that the 2007 teen thriller ripped off the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic and the short story upon which it was based.

With a $20 million budget, Disturbia was considered a modest hit last year, taking in $80.2 million at the U.S. box office. None of which was shared with the estate of the late Sheldon Abend, who bought the rights to Cornell Woolrich's 1942 story It Had to Be Murder after the author died in 1968, according to the lawsuit.

The original tale of neighborly voyeurism was paid tons of lip service, however.

Shia LaBeouf, who played the Jimmy Stewart character, er, homebound teen who suspects his neighbor is a murderer, said last year that comparing Disturbia to Rear Window was like comparing The Cincinnati Kid (brooding hottie plays poker) to The Hustler (brooding hottie plays pool).

"There are similar storylines, similar plot lines, similar elements," he told a wire reporter in April 2007, "but it's not the same movie by any means."

Director D.J. Caruso, meanwhile, called Rear Window merely a jumping-off point for his own story. And it was—literally. The film was shot on the same Paramount soundstage where Hitchcock shot his Oscar-nominated classic.

"Obviously, Rear Window was a big inspiration,'' Caruso told the Los Angeles Daily News last year. "I embraced it instead of running away from it. But I didn't want it to be a remake because that would be silly. You can't remake Rear Window."

Not without sharing the spoils, at least.

Reps for DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures said that they do not comment on pending litigation. Abend's estate is seeking unspecified damages.

Meanwhile, here's just a sampling of how critics compared (not always kindly) the two films:

  • "Despite a serious (some would say blatant) homage to Rear Window, Disturbia finds solid-enough footing as a coming-of-age crime thriller." (San Antonio Express-News)
  • "Christopher Landon gets credit for writing the story of Disturbia. But I'm not sure watching Rear Window qualifies as writing a story." (Richmond Times Dispatch)
  • "Neither of the writers behind Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 masterpiece, Rear Window, is credited in DreamWorks' new thriller Disturbia. But if the filmmakers had any shame, they would have at least gotten a 'story by' tag." (Reno Gazette-Journal)
  • "Teen Gets a Scary Peep at a Creep; Disturbia Puts High-Tech Spin on Rear Window (Detroit Free-Press headline)
  • "This worthy film openly honors Hitchcock's work in Rear Window without merely ripping it off—kind of like a bold director updating a Shakespeare play in a contemporary setting." (Denver Post)
  • "Think of Disturbia as the black-sheep stepchild of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window." (Arizona Republic)
  • "The teen thriller Disturbia...is basically an uncredited remake of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window." (Los Angeles Times)
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