The poorly-titled “Swimfan” is a waterlogged version of “Fatal Attraction” for the teeny-bopper set, no more successful than the similarly-themed bomb “The Crush” was back in 1993. Jesse Bradford plays Ben Cronin, the star of a high school swimming team who becomes the target of Madison Bell (Erika Christensen), a sultry new student who seduces the once-troubled-but-now-on-the-straight-and-narrow kid and becomes enraged when he chooses to return to his long-time girlfriend Amy (Shiri Appleby) after the dalliance. The obsessive (and increasingly violent) Madison takes aim at Ben’s reputation, his scholarship dreams, his Olympic hopes, and, of course, his squeeze. As Michael Douglas might have told Ben had he asked (and he could have, since Douglas’ Furthur Films is one of the outfits behind this production), bad boys gotta pay for their infidelities, whatever their age. But perhaps the viewers suffer even more than they do.
There’s absolutely nothing new, surprising or even vaguely intelligent in Charles Bohl and Phillip Schneider’s script, which in an earlier era might have been fodder for a ABC telemovie but never would have been considered big-screen material. The result, though slickly made, is pure, pedestrian pulp, all predicated on the stupidity of its characters and, unhappily, of the audience too. John Polson, an Australian who’s also appeared in front of the camera, gets some tension into the stalking sequences, helped by the editing of Sarah Flack. (She was responsible, unhappily, for both “Blair Witch 2” and “Full Frontal,” but to compensate also cut “The Limey.”) Giles Nuttgens’ cinematography is decent, too. But the professionalism of the presentation only accentuates how silly, obvious and threadbare the material is, especially in the overwrought climactic confrontation that fills the last fifteen minutes or so. Nor can the game cast make it palatable. Christensen, who was very impressive as Douglas’ druggie daughter in “Traffic,” nails the snarl and the threatening stare her role requires, but this sort of part invites a lack of subtlety, and she sadly succumbs to the temptation; in terms of embarrassing villainous turns from young blonde beauties, her performance is as bad as Alicia Silverstone’s was in “Crush,” and that nearly sank her fledgling career. Bradford looks fine in speedos, but the plot reduces him to doing little more than stand about, mouth agape and eyes bulging, to show how dazed he is at the perpetually unhappy turn of events. (It’s nice to see, however, that he’s making use of the swimming test that he mentioned in a recent Dallas interview was required of all students in his undergraduate curriculum at Columbia University.) Appleby projects the same blind sweetness and vulnerability that she brought to the role of Liz in “Roswell,” even if here she’s not protecting a super-powered alien. Nobody in the supporting cast will win any medals; the most recognizable face surely belongs to Dan Hedaya, who plays Ben’s avuncular coach with atypical restraint, but the one you’ll probably remember is James Debello, an obvious hunk who has great trouble convincing us that he’s a nervous geek as Madison’s cousin Dante.
“Swimfan” winds up as a sad, soggy potboiler that wastes the talents of its attractive young leads. Younger audiences unfamiliar with its collection of cliches might consider it acceptable fare, but anyone else will undoubtedly find its plot tired and its purported thrills terribly tame; it’s likely to evoke more yawns and guffaws than gasps or screams. Even mouth-to-mouth won’t resuscitate this stiff.