It’s a bit weird that young actors are so often drawn to what’s been termed kiddie noir to establish their thespian credentials. Back in the eighties it happened with some members of the so-called brat pack—Judd Nelson in “Blue City,” Anthony Michael Hall in “Out of Bounds.” Later Mark Wahlberg attempted the trick in “Fear.” More recently a post-“Twilight” Tayler Lautner went a similar route with “Abducted.” Now it’s the turn of Nick Jonas, with “Careful What You Wish For.” He fares no better than they did.
The movie is a teeny-bopper version of “Double Indemnity” or “Body Heat” in which Jonas plays Doug Martin, a high school kid who comes with his parents Brian (David Sherrill) and Emily (Kiki Harris) to the family’s North Carolina lake house for the summer. His obnoxious pal Carson (Graham Rogers), with whom he works as a bartender at a local pub, predicts lots of action, but Doug is a shy, studious kid who intends doing a lot of reading, presumably to prepare himself for studies at Columbia, where he’s supposedly headed.
Those plans suffer a setback when neighbors move in next door—Elliot Harper (Dermot Mulroney), a rich but rather coarse financier, and his trophy wife Lena (Isabel Lucas). Elliot hires Doug to help fix up a classic yacht he’s just bought, but it’s really Lena who catches the kid’s eye. Fortunately Elliot is away on business a lot, which leaves plenty of time for Lena and Doug to fill, which they do in the kitchen, in her bedroom, on a mattress in the boathouse. They even take the opportunity for a quickie in back of the town’s general store.
Of course all is not as simple as it seems, and soon poor Doug is drawn into helping Lena extricate herself from a most unpleasant situation, endangering his future in the process. That will attract the attention of not only the local sheriff (Paul Sorvino) but an inquisitive insurance investigator (Kandyce McClure). Where all this is headed is pretty obvious, though screenwriter Chris Frisina does throw in a concluding twist that might well elude you. (Unfortunately, he follows it up with what amounts to a cop-out. True noirs are cynical to the end.)
“Careful What You Wish For” has the feel of a LifeTime movie with a bit more skin than the norm, but as directed by Elisabeth Allen Rosenbaum, who’s worked mostly in series TV, it tends to plod, even at barely ninety minutes. Since the movie was shot several years ago, Jonas can get by as a kid of high school age, but aside from an occasional snide smile, he’s curiously passive and inexpressive. It could be that’s why he was paired with Lucas, a pretty young thing who seems to have about the same amount of talent as the young Bo Derek; his inadequacies are minimized when she partners him in a scene. Mulroney snarls fine—Elliot isn’t a likable fellow—but it’s Sorvino who seems to be having the best time. His character is called Big Jack, a nickname befitting what has become his heavyweight status in more ways than one, and he’s even given the opportunity to sing at one point (as Jonas, fans may be unhappy to learn, is not)—a reminder that he once actually hoped to have an operatic career, though his number here is certainly not Puccini.
The picture was shot on location, and the side-by-side homes in which a good deal of the action is set are certainly handsome. Cinematographer Rogier Stoffers uses them—and the adjacent lake—decently enough, but John Debney’s score is embarrassing, turning into what sounds like soft-core bumping whenever Jonas and Lucas share an intimate moment.
There’s a cable-ready feel to the movie, and one should be careful about plunking down money to purchase a ticket during what will undoubtedly be a very brief theatrical run before it winds up there.