“Consistently entertaining”

by Steve Pulaski

When the Bough Breaks is an innocuous, largely inoffensive stroll down the familiar territory of a thriller with notable “erotic” undertones with an African-American cast at the helm. Between this, Obsessed, The Perfect Guy, and No Good Deed, I feel I could’ve crafted a template for my reviews on these films many moons ago. All of them feature the same conventions and character archetypes, but When the Bough Breaks does a very nice job at bringing to light another big problem with all these films, and it’s bigger than the fact that they all look like TV movies.

The issue is the PG-13 rating. These films are begging-to-be-R-rated, and as of now, this epidemic of these would-be erotic thrillers getting a PG-13 rating is more offensive than horror films getting the same rating. Horrors films of recent time that have earned the rating have proven themselves to still be worthy of attention, while this particular genre can’t seem to adequately nor effectively function with the PG-13 rating. There is a scene in When the Bough Breaks where Anna (Jaz Sinclar), the surrogate for a baby belonging to John and Laura Taylor (Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall), a couple who have had a difficult time expecting, sends John “lewd” webcam videos of herself where he is at work.

When the Bough Breaks
Directed by
Jon Cassar
Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall, Romany Malco
Release Date
9 September 2016
Steve’s Grade: C

The raciest the aforementioned “lewd” videos get is when Anna shimmies around topless with a scarf over her breasts; the only thing more obvious than the unsettled emotions this scene is supposed to bring to the audience is how badly director Jon Cassar (director of the miniseries The Kennedys) wants to take everything a step further. Yet for whatever reason, the film is shortchanged to a PG-13 rating, ostensibly in efforts not to exclude the teenage audience as well. Just a thought – this isn’t the kind of film that attracts very many young teens to begin with, so all that’s happening is you’re diluting material that makes it less enjoyable for the target audience.

As hinted, the film revolves around John and Laura hiring a surrogate to have their baby for them after several failed attempts, and winding up taking her into their home after her relationship with her boyfriend (Theo Rossi) turns dangerously abusive. Following her adapting to her long-stay at the Taylor’s home, her dark, more sinister side begins to see the light, as she becomes dangerously infatuated with John, to the point of trying to erase Laura from the picture entirely. If John doesn’t succumb to her advances, Anna threatens to leave and take the baby with her, because in the eyes of the law, John’s child inside of Anna’s is still technically Anna’s until she relinquishes her rights as a mother.

When the Bough Breaks has one thing going for it and that’s its ability to be almost consistently entertaining, so much so that even predictable, ominous-looking shots of lavish homes in the late-evening hours can be forgiven. Morris Chestnut shows that he can practically sleepwalk these roles and still be effective, and the entire thing is just short enough to compliment a pleasant-enough time at the movies, also known as what this type of genre-film usually intends. Maybe, just maybe, if we can get a similar story with an R-rating next time around, we’ll get something more than passing entertainment.