Leon at the MoviesLeon van Nierop
Leon van Nierop: The Rebound is idealised fluff, comfort food for the romantically inclined, while The Stepfather is competent, but clichéd.
The Rebound (Ster-Kinekor)
Starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Justin Bartha and Redan Yaduv
Directed by Bart Freundlich
Anybody who has ever suffered through separation or lost a loved one either through divorce or death will identify with this idealised film. So, first of all: The Rebound is a delightful romantic comedy and definitely not for the cynical. It presents a hopeful and optimistic view of how life on the rebound should be. It provides hope for us all.
It is optimistic in a way only romantic comedies can be, full of Hollywood glamour, beautiful people, a romantic New York skyline and cute, clever one-liners. So as a movie to put you in the right frame of mind for the New Year or pass a long New Year's Day, this one is a must-see for the romantically inclined as it combines two of Hollywood's most beautiful and charismatic stars and proves that Justin Bartha is a young new actor to watch. You previously saw him as the hapless bridegroom who was kidnapped in The Hangover and he fulfils the promise shown in that brilliant comedy.
Delving deeper into the film, it flirts with an ideological premise. It provides consolation and gives romantic relief to the disenchanted in glamorous terms and should perhaps only be seen as comfort food for the disenchanted.
A mother in her thirties, the beautiful and razor thin Catherine Zeta Jones, discovers her husband's infidelity and promptly divorces him. She moves to New York with her two young children in tow and is forced to take a menial job to make ends meet. When she meets a charming babysitter, played by Justin Bartha, (also on the rebound) who is willing to give up other career opportunities to be with her, she benefits from his attention and good, virile young looks. But she soon realizes that it is all too good to be true. Will this idyllic made-for-the-movies-relationship survive?
If one opts for the cynical route, such a relationship doesn't really stand a chance. There are a few too many lucky coincidences and manipulative story elements to convince. The accidental meetings, the babysitter's immediate rapport with the kids, the husband returning when Bartha is sleeping on the couch and several other clichés don't quite add up, while Bartha's world tour in 5 easy minutes (oh, for the comfort of montages) also doesn't convince. Is it possible for this handsome dude with the broken heart to not even participate in a one night stand with women throwing themselves at him? Oh, but wait, this is real love, so perhaps it is motivated? You decide as the film celebrates true soul-changing love and clearly states that once one has found one's soul-mate, nothing can destroy it.
The Rebound is deliciously if superficially entertaining and highly watchable, but in the end it is idealised fluff.
Similar Films: Maid In Manhattan, The Proposal.
The Stepfather (Ster-Kinekor)
Starring Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward and Penn Badgley
Directed by Nelson McCormick
This remake of the infamous The Stepfather-horror franchise of the late eighties isn't nearly as bad as one would have expected. As a matter of fact it has some rather chilling scenes, unexpected surprises and competent acting. The problem is that although, on a directorial level, the director explores many possibilities, the script remains cliché-ridden. Once again we are confronted by a group of characters so brainless and so vulnerable that it is surprising that they haven't been taken over by aliens eons ago. So the film loses at least 2 marks because of the unconvincing story.
An evil psychopath (aren't they all?!) freelances as a stepfather. He picks up lonely women with kids in supermarkets and takes over their homes so that he can have a family life. Once he tires of them, he kills them. Has he met his match this time?
For a change his biggest opponent isn't a scantily clad girl who sees through him and tries to save her family, but a hunky dude who spends most of his time without a shirt on, so the ladies can look forward to lots of pretty boy shots. He also comes directly off the set of the successful TV series Gossip Girl, so Penn Badgley already has the audience's sympathy and he's also not a bad actor. So one is on the right side from the start!
The other characters are sympathetic, although Badgley's brother and sister barely feature in the film apart from the odd scene where they fall victim to the evil stepfather's moods and wickedness. Again: are the police in a coma that they don't recognise one of America's most wanted? Doesn't anybody watch news or read newspapers? And why doesn't the young hero go to the police with his suspicions?
Some scenes though, are quite scary and tense, like the inevitable final confrontation in the rain that happens in most of these horror imitations. But in spite of its predictable and rather lame plot, Nelson McCormick's directing is brave and the film keeps your attention. So it is worth spending some money on. But if you have seen the original 1987-version with Terry O'Quinn, you will know exactly what's coming as the latest version didn't really change the plot.
Nice exploitation entertainment with lots of beautiful people in hapless situations. You will also recognise some TV-faces like Dylan Walsh from Nip and Tuck. But you will forget the plot before you reach the parking bay.
Similar Films: The Stepfather (1987) The Stepfather Part 11.
Leon van Nierop is one of South Africa's best-known and most respected film critics. He has reviewed films for 34 years for every medium; from television and radio to magazines, newspapers and the Internet. He has lectured on film criticism for 14 years throughout the country and headed the TUT film school in Pretoria for 4 years. He has also written two books on film analysis, the most recent being Movies Made Easy published by van Schaiks. He has also served as judge for several short film and film competitions, is part of the SAFTA jury awarding Golden Horns to the best local film talent, and writes extensively on film for several publications. He also served as professor in film at TUT and also headed that film school for 4 years. He has just completed a stint as presenter, scriptwriter, voice-over artist and co-producer for DEKAT on SABC 3. He has written 23 novels and several TV-series and dramas and is currently working on another novel. He is also a newsreader and continuity presenter for RSG on SABC radio and serves as their major film critic.