Movie Review: ‘When the Bough Breaks’ a solid place-filler until better movies come along
Just from the trailer alone, “When the Bough Breaks” suggested a Cinemax After Dark erotic thriller in Lifetime movie drag. You know it’s never going to be “good” but the implied level of sleaze and kitsch on display suggests something far more entertaining, something in which a very pregnant woman (with the word baby written on her stomach) is seducing people in an aquarium before murdering them with a pair of scissors.
Now that’s a movie, a movie all of us would like to see, but, unfortunately “When the Bough Breaks” is not that movie. In fact, it’s barely more than “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” as filtered through a Land’s End catalog.
Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut star as a couple so boring their personalities can be summed up by the fact that one is a lawyer while the other isn’t. They also want a baby very, very badly. Enter Jaz Sinclair as a surrogate who’s practically perfect in every way. A little too practically perfect in every way, if you catch my drift.
For one thing, her boyfriend (Theo Rossi) is a smirk that walks like a man and, at one point, actually brags to Chestnut about being a really good peeper. Inevitably, Rossi is revealed to be abusing Sinclair and instead of placing Sinclair in a women’s shelter or a four star hotel or something that isn’t a terrible idea, Hall and Chestnut decide to allow her to bunk in the guest house of their sweeping estate.
Unknown to the oblivious couple is that dead-eyed Sinclair is harboring obsessive feelings for Chestnut and while Hall’s work requires her to travel around the world (strange considering she’s a chef. Who is she, Anthony Bourdain?) Sinclair further insinuates herself into Chestnut’s life by writing the word ‘baby’ on her stomach as she pretends to strip. On a lighter note, the film introduces us to Hall’s elderly cat Mrs. Havisham who is doted over and treated as if it were Hall’s own child. Much like every cop that’s ‘just two days away from retirement’ in every action movie, you can rest assured this cat will never, ever die.
Like every bad knockoff of “Fatal Attraction,” “When the Bough Breaks” feels like the script was adapted from a lie a shitty husband told his wife after he was found with the babysitter. The premise is every middle-aged man’s fantasy poorly masquerading as every middle-aged man’s nightmare. At one point Hall forces Chestnut to take Sinclair to their secluded beach house so their extra-marital sex can save the life of his unborn son (not surprisingly, “When the Bough Breaks” was written by a dude).
Yet as stupid as all of this sounds, it’s not particularly fun. Partly because the film takes its exploitive premise far too seriously but mostly because “When the Bough Breaks” joylessly goes through the motions of every erotic thriller cliché. It’s the kind of bland, generic, cable-ready product in which Jan Michael Vincent and Joan Severance are conspicuous in their absence.
Apart from the overqualified likes of Hall and Chestnut, “When the Bough Breaks” wastes Romany Malco in a subplot that goes nowhere and “The Wire’s” Michael K. Williams as a private investigator who wanders into the film, takes an enormous exposition dump on the audiences’ laps and then wanders out of the film. Much like every other movie released this month, “When the Bough Breaks” exists as a place-holder; something to take up space at your local theater until something better comes along.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
‘When the Bough Breaks’
Starring: Regina Hall, Theo Rossi, Michael K. Williams
Director: John Cassar
Weekender Rating: W
Length: 107 minutes