When The Bough Breaks (2016)

09/15/2016  By  Martin R. Schneider     No comments

If you can’t make something good, you could at least try to make something interesting.

Borrowing both aesthetic and plotline from Lifetime Movie Network, When The Bough Breaks didn’t have much hope of being decent. But one could at least hope it was enjoyable schlocky trash. Alas, the film only provides a handful of unintentionally funny moments, choosing to play it safe with its absurdity instead of embracing it.

When The Bough Breaks features Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall as John and Laura Taylor, a successful married couple who desperately want to be parents but have been unable to carry a baby to full term. Choosing to go the in-vitro route, the couple finds a 21-year old waitress named Anna (Jaz Sinclair) as their surrogate, using the taxing criteria of “Eh, she seems nice.” When Anna begins living with the couple following a domestic abuse altercation with her sleazy boyfriend Mike (Theo Rossi), she begins developing some Fatal Attraction-style feelings for John. As the baby develops inside her, Anna’s obsession gets bolder and John discovers dangerous secrets in her past. (Also there’s a subplot about Mike the abusive boyfriend wanting to scam the Taylors for money and steal the baby or something? It’s dumb.)

boughbreaks1

TFW blurry people know a joke but you had to be there.

To the film’s credit, it’s actually easy to find yourself drawn into John and Laura’s life as the entire first act paints their perfect relationship. The dialogue is rubbish, but Chestnut and Hall are cute together and committed to selling it. It’s their charm that gets the movie through, as the rookie Sinclair isn’t nearly as capable. In her defense, Anna is inconsistently written from scene-to-scene, switching from calculating menace to simpering victim without explanation.

Scratch that; there actually is an explanation given, it’s just a gross one.

This movie likes to blame everything on Anna’s craziness, but specifies no mental health issue. It’s just a Harley Quinn-style “sexy crazy” that feels like an offensive copout. At one point the film even indirectly discredits domestic abuse claims. The film also stagnates in the middle 45 minutes while it floats between excuses to put Anna in PG-13 nudity. (By the way, there’s a weird line in the beginning where Anna says that she’s never had anything anyone else wanted before “besides the obvious,” as though John and Laura weren’t also wanting her for her body. A better movie would do something interesting with this.)

Regina Hall

Yo, if this angle got any more Dutch it would be wearing clogs and hunting the Predator.

 

It’s difficult to see When The Bough Breaks and not think of The Perfect Guy, a similar but much better movie also starring Morris Chestnut which came out almost exactly a year ago. But while that film prided itself on subversion and escalation, this film gives nothing beyond what’s at face value. There’s no wild twist at the end, there’s no surprises, no silliness to speak of. Every assumption you had at the beginning of the film remains true and unchallenged by the end. This is a movie where a woman goes into labor while kicking another woman in the head. It’s a movie where Morris Chestnut delivers wacky surprised faces at the camera when a pair of tits mysteriously appear on his computer. Yet the film still takes itself deadly serious. There’s some unexpected enjoyable moments, but not the way the filmmakers intended. If only there had been a commitment to ridiculousness somewhere along the line, there would be something worth salvaging here. Instead, it’s a by-the-numbers table-read of a movie that fails to capitalize on the sheer madness of its premise.

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An Outrageously Silly Concept
A Frustratingly Self-Serious Execution
Chestnut and Hall Deserving Better
Gross Sexy-Crazy
Seeing a Cat In Act One And Thinking "Yo, That Cat Is Gonna DIE."

About Martin R. Schneider

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Martin Schneider has opinions about a lot of things, and sometimes he writes them down. But he tries not to be a douchebag about it, though.

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