By Bill Wine
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The title comes from a nursery rhyme that is surprisingly sinister:
“Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetops.
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.
And down will come baby, cradle and all.”
Kinda dark, no?
But certainly no darker than When the Bough Breaks, a dreadful suspense thriller (not to be confused with the earlier movie, telemovie, or documentary with the same title but different subject matter) in which a surrogate mom for a couple becomes obsessed with the father-to-be.
The cradle will fall, all right.
Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall are John and Laura Taylor, a successful professional couple – he’s a lawyer, she’s a chef — who are desperate to have a baby but are unable to conceive.
They try just about everything and explore every possible option but nothing works.
So they hire a beautiful young women named Anna, played by Jaz Sinclair, as their surrogate.
When they find out that Anna is troubled by an abusive boyfriend, they invite her to move into their house and live with them.
She does so and makes a play for Jon, who rejects her advances.
But as time passes on the way to delivery, the disturbed Anna develops and gives in to her fixation on John, threatening not just the happiness of this potential family but their very lives – as well as that of the unborn baby.
That’s sort of the story, but because the movie gives up on its shaky premise halfway home, two additional subplots are mixed in that don’t improve, explain, or make sense of anything.
The director, television veteran Jon Cassar (Forsaken), works from a script by first-timer Jack Olsen that eschews nuance in character and behavior to a ludicrous and depressing degree.
Rarely does a movie have so little internal logic, with movie characters who behave not like real people but like plastic constructs beamed down from another planet.
And the ridiculously arbitrary narrative, even by the expected exploitation standards of the genre, gets more preposterous as it goes along.
Ultimately, because there is no effective way for this tale to end, it just stops, picks up its playthings, and goes home.
As for the actors, no one comes off well, but then, how could they with this impossible-to-make-work script? For their sakes, let’s hope this represents a low point for each of the performers.
As for us, we’ll cradle 1 lonely little star out of 4. When a plot is as unintentionally laughable as that of When the Bough Breaks, down comes just about everything.