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Review: ‘When the Bough Breaks’ the cradle will … eh, it doesn’t really matter in this retread thriller

Jaz Sinclair and Morris Chestnut star in "When the Bough Breaks."
(Michele K Short / Screen Gems)

Cross “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” with “Fatal Attraction,” then subtract some of those films’ visceral, iconic tension and you have something akin to “When the Bough Breaks,” a serviceable domestic thriller that’s not quite the well-oiled machine that it could be.

John and Laura Taylor (Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall) are an upscale New Orleans couple — he’s a hotshot lawyer, she’s a hotshot chef — whose inability to conceive a child together leads them to hire the attractive, young Anna (Jaz Sinclair) as a surrogate mother.

But Anna, sweet and humble though she first seems, has a questionable boyfriend, Mike (Theo Rossi), who gives John and Laura pause. Despite that and a few other early warning signs, the Taylors, especially the eager Laura, embrace Anna and the baby-making begins.

In short order, though, the manipulative Anna moves forward with her and Mike’s pre-planned scheme, which will combine greed, extortion and a kind of in-utero “hostage” situation fueled, as we will later learn, by a surrogate mother’s legal claim to ownership of the baby she’s carrying until she gives up that right. (This edict curiously turns out to be news to the hotshot lawyer.)

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However, before things start turning truly wiggy, events conspire to drive John and Laura to invite Anna to move in with them. Too close for comfort would be an understatement, especially as Anna begins to shamelessly flirt with the stalwart John in ways that prove awkward, embarrassing and tempting.

Meanwhile, John’s detective friend (Michael K. Williams) uncovers information about Anna’s unsavory past, details of which, despite the weak excuse that’s offered, somehow escaped the agency that matched the Taylors with Anna.

Is Anna’s growing fixation on the hunky daddy-to-be part of her original plan or something unexpected and uncontrollable? Will the law really stay on Anna’s side no matter how crazy and dangerous she becomes? How will the fate of the abusive, volatile Mike (no spoilers!) factor into Anna’s twisted mission?

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These and other key questions pop up as John and Laura become inextricably drawn into Anna’s deadly vortex. Writer Jack Olsen’s glossy script goes light on logic, credibility and mining some of the story’s deeper ramifications, as it works its way toward the inevitable, largely predictable final showdown.

Under the workmanlike direction of Jon Cassar (“Forsaken”), “Bough” breaks little new or inspired ground as it spins out its mildly effective, occasionally silly cautionary tale.

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‘When the Bough Breaks’

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MPAA Rating: PG-13, for violence, sexuality/partial nudity, thematic elements, some disturbing images, and language

Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

Playing: In general release.


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