John and Laura Taylor (Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall) are a young, professional couple who desperately want a baby. After exhausting all other options, they finally hire Anna (Jaz Sinclair), the perfect woman to be their surrogate – but as her pregnancy progresses, so too does her psychotic and dangerous fixation on John. The couple becomes caught up in Anna’s deadly game and must fight to regain control of their future before it’s too late
A movie doesn't always have to be new and original to be entertaining for an audience. Often times a bit of familiarity is a good thing as it can help guide while tempering audience expectations. They may know what is coming down the road, but that knowing also helps make a piece of low bar entertainment enjoyable. Unfortunately, if a flick is too familiar, the final product just becomes a long slog. Unfortunately, this is the fate that Jon Cassar's thriller 'When the Bough Breaks' finds itself in. Familiarity with past thrillers of the psycho-obsession sort sinks the few new twists this film manages to bring to the genre.
John (Morris Chestnut) and Laura (Regina Hall) are shining examples of success. Their marriage is secure, their careers have never been better, and they live in a beautiful luxurious home. The only thing they don't have is a child - and they desperately want one. Turing to a surrogate, they find a young, seemingly innocent girl named Anna (Jaz Sinclair). Anna's boyfriend Mike (Theo Rossi) is in the Navy and is about to ship out making this opportunity to serve as a surrogate a financially smart idea. Everything is going perfectly. The implantation is a success, and a baby is on the way for John and Laura. When Anna becomes obsessed with John, fantasizing about herself and him together, John and Laura's dream of having the perfect family quickly becomes threatened.
'Unlawful Entry,' 'Fatal Attraction,' 'Fear,' 'The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,' pick any obsessed psycho thriller that you can think of and sure enough, you're going to find any number of similarities and even ripped off plot beats within 'When the Bough Breaks.' While the hook, the idea of a surrogate mother becoming the deranged murderer is certainly novel, not enough new and unique is actually done with it. It's merely used as a means to integrate the psycho within the family. After that, the film starts to just paint in the numbers and rarely delivers on audience expectations.
I do have to tip my hat to the performances. Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall, and Jaz Sinclair are giving it their all with this one. There's a great effort to make these people human and relatable so the audience is invested in them as people. A lot of Jon Cassar and Screenwriter Jack Olsen's time at the front end makes a great effort to define these characters, but then as the film progresses they all end up doing such stupid things that make them infuriating. When a simple conversation, an awkward one sure, but a simple one between Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall's characters could solve all of their issues, it just shows how thin the plot really is.
As a piece of silly semi-exploitation entertainment, 'When the Bough Breaks' somewhat works. When you want the nitty-gritty down and dirty stuff to happen in a Surrogate vs. Wife brawl, the film does manage to deliver some of the goods. However, by the time the logical confrontation occurs in the film, your patience may have been stretched too thin. Not helping matters is the fact that this film clearly aimed at the PG-13 demographic when a hard R-rating would have helped deliver on audience expectations. Rather than going full-tilt boogie with the film, the filmmakers play things entirely too safe when more would have provided a higher reward. Watch 'When the Bough Breaks' with expectations firmly in check if you hope to glean any genuine enjoyment out of it.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'When the Bough Breaks' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures and is pressed onto a Region Free BD-50 disc. Housed in a standard snapper Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork, the disc loads to trailers for other Sony releases before arriving at a static image main menu with traditional navigation options. A Digital HD voucher slip is also included inside.
While 'When the Bough Breaks' may not be the most originally or successful thriller, it certainly is a pretty one to look at! Sourced from digital elements, this is a beautiful looking film with sumptuous detail levels, warm colors, and deep inky black levels. From the opening shot to the last, you're able to take in the tiniest details from clothing stitches to cracks in the paint of John's lake cabin. Colors skew slightly towards the warmer yellows without pulling hard on the primaries. Reds are deep reds, blues have a rich and natural vibrancy to them. Flesh tones appear accurate and healthy throughout. Black levels are inky and provide the image with a lovely sense of three-dimensional depth, especially in dark scenes. Without any compression issues, banding, noise, or otherwise, this is a beautiful looking transfer.
While it's given a full DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix, 'When the Bough Breaks' doesn't make much use of it. While dialogue is crystal clear, scoring and sound effects elements have their own space, the audio mix is largely a front/center affair. This isn't a bad thing necessarily, but there just isn't a lot going on that requires a full surround presence and there aren't enough background ambient sounds happening through much of the film. Those side and rear channels really don't kick in until the final third of the film and even then they feel rather subdued. That said, what you do hear is great. Since so much of the movie takes place in small rooms or the lavish home, there is a great sense of space and dimension as atmospherics do get to play their part. This isn't your average action film so don't expect to be blown away by this subtle sound design.
Audio Commentary: Director Jon Cassar, Screenwriter Jack Olsen, and Jaz Sinclair provide an interesting and informative commentary track together. A lot of the discussions are about the genesis of the film, where Jack Olsen got the idea for the film. Sinclair offers up a lot of great material about how she found her character and her approach to playing a particularly unique brand of crazy.
The Haves & Haves Nots: (HD 7:48) This is your tried and true EPK bonus feature with the cast talking about their characters.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 17:57) Comprised of nine deleted scenes, it's probably a good thing that much of this material didn't make it to the final film as even for the amount of time cut, there isn't a whole lot that feels like it's missing from the film.
'When the Bough Breaks' tries hard to play things straight within a genre that is all about extremes. By playing things safe, the film only half succeeds in its entertainment goals. Entirely too predictable, the film doesn't do enough new nor does it play to its strengths making the final product a bit of a slog. Sony brings 'When the Bough Breaks' to Blu-ray in fine order with a solid A/V presentation and a decent assortment of extra features. At the end of the day, it's worth a look. Not a movie to make a blind buy on.