A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that When the Bough Breaks is a thriller about a surrogate who threatens the biological parents of the baby she's carrying. Though the main couple is likable, it's all very routine and forgettable, not very smart, and pretty violent. A man abuses his girlfriend, and there are additional beatings, plus stabbings; a gory, rotting corpse (with maggots); gun use; some blood and injuries; and discussions of sexual abuse. While there's no graphic nudity, there is kissing and a sex scene, plus scenes of stripteases and flirting. Language is infrequent but includes uses of "s--t," "bitch," and "ass." Adult characters drink on social occasions, and one character smokes a cigarette and gets drunk.
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What's the story?
In WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS, lawyer John Taylor (Morris Chestnut) and his wife, Laura (Regina Hall), a chef, want to have a baby but can't. Opting to try a surrogate, they find Anna (Jaz Sinclair), a young woman who seems perfect for the job. Everyone agrees, and the pregnancy is a success. Then Anna's boyfriend, Mike (Theo Rossi), beats her up, and the Taylors agree to take her in. Meanwhile, Anna falls in love with the gentle, loving John and starts acting inappropriately toward him. At the same time, Mike continues to plot, trying to figure out ways to blackmail the Taylors. But very soon, he'll be the least of their troubles.
Is it any good?
Thrillers in which seemingly harmless outsiders worm their way into safe, secure, middle-class homes and then threaten them were popular in the '90s; this one feels like a pale copy. The good news is that stars Chestnut and Hall (who've also appeared together in The Best Man, Think Like a Man, and The Best Man Holiday) portray the Taylors as a likable couple worth rooting for. And Sinclair has an appealingly mesmerizing presence that sells her ultimate turn to evil.
But Rossi's Mike is an overcooked bad-guy boyfriend, and he signals the dumb, violent third act, in which nothing makes any sense. Attacks come from out of nowhere, and characters seem to be able to suddenly move across rooms without making any noise. By the time When the Bough Breaks' climax happens, it almost feels like the whole movie was just heading nowhere all along -- as if the marketing were more important than the storytelling. At least character actor Michael Kenneth Williams shows up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in When the Bough Breaks. Is it disturbing, thrilling, or both? How does the movie differentiate between these types of violence? How does it leave you feeling?
How does the movie handle its sexual material? What role does sex play in the characters' relationships? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding these topics.
This movie is part of a subgenre in which characters enter a domestic situation and then turn violent. What's the appeal of these kinds of movies? Why are they scary, thrilling, or entertaining?
Are there any role models here? If so, who and why?
- In theaters: September 9, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: December 27, 2016
- Cast: Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall, Jaz Sinclair
- Director: Jon Cassar
- Studio: Sony Pictures Releasing
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, sexuality/partial nudity, thematic elements, some disturbing images, and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
For kids who love thrills
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