‘When the Bough Breaks’ is in Need of Repairs

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Average: 5 (2 votes)
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Popular nursery rhymes are told to children as a way to calm them, but also as some kind of cautionary tale. Most of us could hear the melody and be able to sing the words along with it. This predictability is both its greatest strength and weakness, but the predictability that is the nursery cautionary tale in “When the Bough Breaks” is anything but a strength.

One of the worst things a film can be is “okay”. At least if a film is at either extreme of good or bad, it tends to be memorable. I can remember every Adam Sandler film as well as I can remember every Steven Spielberg. The biggest problem with “When the Bough Breaks” is how easily it clears your mind as soon as it’s over. The only thought you might leave the film with is, “Wow, they’re going to need a good lawyer.”

Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall Being Watched in ‘When the Bough Breaks’
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

Director Jon Cassar shows that he is more experienced with action sequences than he is elevating a horror/thriller film. The mechanics are completely different and involve more nuance than the predictable, heavy-handed approach Cassar delivers. His style is basic for television, which is where the brunt of his experience resides, but comes off as pallid and TV movie-esque as a film. Coincidentally, the film does shine during the few fight sequences in the film, providing a much welcomed change in pacing and camerawork.

Cassar does what he can with the minimal story first time screenwriter Jack Olsen provides. Every element is fairly standard, drawing on several tropes and predictable feints in vain attempt to elicit real emotion. There is a vacant numbness you feel throughout the entire film because you know exactly what is going to happen next. Olsen tries desperately to mimic even the smallest illusion of Hitchcockian intrigue in the film, but ends up channeling B-level charm of a Lifetime movie.

The story’s lack of ambition is blatant, especially when they reach the end and fade out before even trying to attempt to cover any of the major plot holes left in the film.The film escalates past “believable” and nests in “outrageous” as the events grow increasingly implausible. At least they don’t even pretend to try to show our protagonists try to explain their situation, although that would be a great change up.

There is an undeniable sex appeal that is forced throughout the film. Yes, the cast is full of beyond attractive people so naturally we get to see them display it over, and over, and over. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the scenes, except that they feel like an attempt to fill the film with sexual tension to hide the fact that there is little else going on with the story. I’ll be the last person to complain about seeing Morris Chestnut with as little clothes as possible, but this film uses it less like a compliment and more like a crutch to keep our attention.

Jaz Sinclair in ‘When the Bough Breaks’
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

Aside from good performances from Regina Hall, Morris Chestnut and Jaz Sinclair, this film also gives a great representation of successful people of color. The film doesn’t resort to any negligent stereotypes, but instead paints an accurate and respectful portrait of people of color succeeding in their respective industries. Even more than that, it also makes several positive mentions of The Boys and Girls Club and its effect on helping creating successful adult.

Sometimes the cinematic experience translates to little more than an escapist trist for some people, and you could do much worse than “When the Bough Breaks”. Every aspect feels procedural and expected, with little surprises to be had for the viewers. Aside from a few positive messages, the film comes out to little more than a vehicle to remind us how sexy each actor and actress still is.

“When the Bough Breaks” opened everywhere on September 9th. Featuring Regina Hall, Morris Chestnut, Romany Malco, MIchael Kenneth Williams, Jaz Sinclair, Glenn Morshower and Theo Rossi. Screenplay by Jack Olsen. Directed by Jon Cassar. Rated “PG-13”

Jon Espino, film and video game critic, HollywoodChicago.com

Film & Video Game Critic

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