The woefully generic ‘When The Bough Breaks’ has the gloss factor going for it to a certain extent. Truthfully, its presentable package of panicky polish includes a stylish suspense piece highlighting an attractive cast involved in familiar dramatic cable-TV inspired shrugs and false jolts. Of course, the creepy cradle falls in the mediocre ‘When The Bough Breaks’ when the Jon Cassar-directed, Jack Olsen-written hollow horror showcase commits the real scare of resembling a lightweight Lifetime Movie Channel twitchy televised project. The so-called sinister shenanigans in ‘When The Bough Breaks’ never feel majestic or mischievous enough to fill the realm of the big screen. Basically, Cassar’s transparent tension-filled teaser is atmospheric and arbitrary in the surrogate pregnancy genre. The artificial thrills fail to wring any imaginative or inventive suspense that register with genuine anxiety.
Ultimately, ‘When The Bough Breaks’ yearns to be a provocative pot-boiler with a high-end naughty pulse to its flat-lining frenzy of passion and pain. The real shame is that ‘Bough’ commonly echoes the commonplace conventions of a potent cheesy sexual thriller we have seen countless times to no end. In fact, ‘When The Bough Breaks’ could masquerade as a BET cable channel-based knock-off to filmmaker Adrian Lyne’s 1987 psycho-sexual thrill vehicle ‘Fatal Attraction’, with an ethnic twist. In fact, ‘Bough’ is in more of the synthetic spirit of the forgettable Beyonce Knowles-Idris Elba-Ari Larter 2009 horror slice-and-dice romancer ‘Obsession’. The regurgitated theme of a twisted younger spicy vixen looking to get her sensual hooks on the hunky object of desire at the expense of the harried wife on the cynical sidelines has played out in other preferable big screen and cable TV-bound flicks. Here, in ‘Bough’, the tired formula comes off as another strained, eye-rolling rip-off pertaining to the otherwise revisited jeopardised love triangle scenario.
Thus, ‘When The Bough Breaks’ loses its credible balance when the movie morphs into another hysterical female psychopath waving a sharp utensil around in the name of cartoonish, toxic outrage. Joining the contemporary delusional divas such as the aforementioned ‘Fatal Attraction’s Alex Forrest and ‘Obsession’s Lisa Sheridan (how about going way back and looking at the doomed love triangle with seasoned actress Jessica Walter’s crazed stalker Evelyn from 1971’s Clint Eastwood-directed ‘Play Misty For Me’) is Jaz Sinclair’s (‘Paper Towns’) sexy surrogate Anna looking to rock the titillating world of a handsome married man named John Taylor (Morris Chestnut).
The premise involves power professional couple John, an attorney, and his gorgeous established chef wife, Laura (Regina Hall). They are both blessed with looks, materialistic excess and thriving careers but there is one main thing that alludes them as being completely sound in their lives, the playful addition of a baby to start their growing family. The marital tension has been building between the Taylors and a child seems to be the immediate solution to healing. Unfortunately, Laura has had three miscarriages in the past. The Taylors have experimented with surrogates to carry their baby but to no avail. Time is running out as John and Laura grow restless and want results especially in the wake of a dire marriage needing stimulation.
Soon, the Taylors will find some glimmer of hope in becoming parents when they get acquainted with the aforementioned 21 year- old sexy waitress Jaz Walsh (Sinclair) and her sleazy abusive boyfriend Mike (Theo Rossi from TV’s ‘Sons Of Anarchy’). Anna, now impregnated, is at the mercy of Mike’s beatings and decides to call John for help. John brings Anna back to his place to shelter away from the riff raffish Mike. The opportunity for taking in a pregnant and desperate Anna could prove beneficial for the childless married tandem. What the Taylors do not realise is how shifty and deceptive their new housemate is at heart.
‘When The Bough Breaks’ follows the run-of-the-mill road map of lame suspense, tepid titillating sequences and by-the-book shocks that have about as much high-wire punch as poking a stale marshmallow. The tawdry scenes between youngish vamp Anna trying to seduce the wealthy yet unsatisfied older John feels mechanically orchestrated. The sex appeal among the main principals is an automatic given so there is bound to be some hormonal happenings in the bedroom or behind closed walls among the periled pretty people. In fact, Anna actually spies on the Taylors’ private love-making session at one point but the payoff in watching this conniving cutie getting ‘turned on’ by the private intimacy feels oddly uneventful and detached. Anna lusting after married stud-muffin John does not generate anything particularly provocative unless you find this curvaceous crackpot printing ‘baby’ on her puffed out tummy as the selling point of a twisted temptress gone to her loony limits.
Had the filmmakers done a better job at exploring the damaged diva persona of Sinclair’s Anna Walsh then maybe her tarnished tart routine would be more interesting and intriguing. Sinclair’s Anna is reduced to ‘bitchy and berserk’ without much consideration in tapping further into her obvious ‘lost little girl’ syndrome. The trouble is that we have seen the Anna Walsh-type seductress in cinema numerous times before so the frenzied female in a tame and tedious ‘When The Bough Breaks’ comes off as merely inconsequential. Sinclair certainly has perverse fun playing a ‘pregnant plaything’ for Chestnut’s stoic legal eagle that eventually bites into the alluring poisoned apple of Anna’s tainted charm. It is too bad that the movie’s unevenness and telegraphed toxicity recalls a scattershot flatness that never realises its inspired potential. Even when John’s unscrupulous plot is revealed the shake-up does not change ‘Bough’s disjointed direction.
‘When The Bough Breaks’ so-called chilly effectiveness is dramatically stiffened despite the glitzy shine of its photogenic cast and pseudo-steamy situations. Furthermore, the inability to seize the moments of the unintentional campiness is somewhat glaring as well. The-bad-girl-with-the-baby-bump thriller feels like a typical wet diaper, relentlessly saggy while carrying an unexpected load it cannot handle.
When The Bough Breaks (2016)
1 hr. 33 mins.
Starring: Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall, Jaz Sinclair, Romany Malco, Theo Rossi, Tom Nowicki and Michael K. Williams
Directed by: Jon Cassar
MPPA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Horror/Drama/Suspense & Mystery
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng 2016