“When the Bough Breaks”
Starring: Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall
Director: Jon Cassar
Rating: PG-13 for violence, sexuality/partial nudity, thematic elements, some disturbing images and language
Playing at: Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12
“When the Bough Breaks” is the worst kind of thriller – one where seemingly smart people keep doing dumb things over and over and over. It’s a film that could have easily ended with one conversation or one logical reaction, but instead everyone does exactly the wrong thing, resulting in a sleek looking movie full of stupidity.
Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall star as John and Laura Taylor, a successful couple still hoping to start a family despite several setbacks. Down to their last chance (for reasons never fully explained) the couple seem to have found their chance when a young woman named Anna (Jaz Sinclair) agrees to be a surrogate.
Anna appears to be the perfect choice, but problems with her boyfriend (Theo Rossi) lead the couple to invite her into their home. That invitation only makes things worse as Anna develops an obsession with John and also starts to reveal that perhaps she wasn’t the right choice after all.
It all plays out like a recycled spin of the early 1990’s film “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” but even that feels plausible compared to “Bough Breaks.”
Chestnut, who served as an executive producer, and Hall are so much better than the material – which I would call a second-rate Hitchcock knock-off, but that would actually be an insult to second-rate Hitchcock knock-offs. It’s the kind of film where (minor spoilers) John gets information about Anna’s past that sends major red flags – the kind of stuff that would make you want to contact the police right away – yet decides to keep it to himself so he won’t upset Laura. It’s also the kind of film where as soon as a pet appears you know the poor thing isn’t going to be around much longer.
Sinclair, who is given an introducing credit despite appearing in last year’s “Paper Towns,” is asked to turn from love-struck and naive to full-fledged psycho in the snap of a finger, and she fails miserably, which makes the build less thrilling and more dull.
Despite Screen Gems’ efforts to diversify the genre – as this is the third straight September a thriller featuring a predominantly African-American cast has been released by the studio – it’s now the third straight year it looks like said thriller has firmly entrenched itself onto my list of the worst movies of the year.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s pick is the new documentary “De Palma” (B+) – a fascinating retrospective of the career of Brian De Palma, a filmmaker who has earned a reputation as one of his generation’s most visionary directors.
If you have ever wanted to just sit in on a shoot-the-breeze session with a mainstream director and find out what really makes them tick, then the new documentary “De Palma” is the film for you.
The film is essentially the director talking about his life and career to Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow with cameras rolling, resulting in some amazing insight behind some of De Palma’s signature films.
Baumbach and Paltrow intercut footage from De Palma’s films throughout the conversation – displaying how Alfred Hitchcock provided a major influence on his work, but also how De Palma created his own techniques. (His use of split screens is now legendary).
What I found most interesting about “De Palma” wasn’t revisiting a resume that has so much diversity – ranging from “Dressed to Kill” to “The Untouchables” to “Scarface” and “Carlito’s Way” to “Mission: Impossible” – but the admissions of mistakes or regrets in his work. De Palma talks about why he thinks his adaptation of “Bonfire of the Vanities” was a critical and commercial failure quite candidly and also tells of how he was nearly replaced as director of “Scarface.”
This is a man who fought the studio system, did it his way, and ultimately created a body of work that has influenced many of today’s filmmakers.
After watching “De Palma” I have a greater appreciation for the director’s work and am eager to revisit some of his films.
“De Palma” is rated R for violent images, graphic nudity, sexual content and some language and is now available on DVD.