Thrillers often have a moralistic streak that runs through them. It’s really simple: you engage in an immoral act, you have to pay. In these thrillers there is no greater sin than that of infidelity. Breaking the bonds of marriage always have resoundingly negative consequences in these types of movies, such as in the generic thriller Careful What You Wish For. This is a movie that wallows in the genre’s tropes without escalating them beyond the familiar. While not truly awful nor truly good, Careful What You Wish For loses its most interesting elements halfway through its tale of infidelity and betrayal.
For the summer, the young Doug Martin (Nick Jonas) and his parents are residing in a quiet lakeside community. Doug and his friend Carson (Graham Rogers) ogle the girls and wonder about all of the gorgeous young ladies that will be their sexual conquests over the summer. The two work in the local bar run Sheriff Big Jack (Paul Sorvino), though working as a busboy isn’t the best use of Doug’s talents. When Elliot Harper (Dermot Mulroney) and his wife Lena (Isabel Lucas) move next door, the brash and arrogant Elliot hires Doug to repair his recently purchased sailboat. Of course, the young man can’t keep his eyes off the blonde, leggy Lena. Like a character from a Hitchcock film, Doug engages in voyeurism as he spies on his attractive neighbor only to view moments of ugliness from Elliot, crass and loud while moving violently towards his own wife.
Of course, Doug and Lena soon have a romantic liaison while Elliot is out of town, and Lena asks Doug for her protection from her violent and rage-filled husband. It’s not long before Doug arrives next door to find Elliot’s bloodied body on the floor with Lena pleading self-defense. Claiming that Elliot’s family will run her through the mud, Lena convinces Doug to dispose of the body and cover up the events of the evening, which the horny young man does without much thought. But things get complicated when it’s discovered that Lena is to collect a $10 million insurance policy, which brings in insurance investigator Angie Alvarez (Kandyse McClure), who grills everyone involved. All eyes are on Doug as his story seems to crumble under scrutiny as Lena goes into hiding.
The first half of Careful What You Wish For is fairly engaging, but not due to the performance of Nick Jonas. The former teen idol is playing a real wet noodle of a character, one that is only motivated by the prospect of sexual intercourse and nothing else. Jonas plays the character as quiet and dead-eyed, an extremely bland and dopey young man. Conversely, Isabel Lucas is adequate as the cheating wife Lena. She brings a sultry sensibility to the character, though she is also thinly sketched out as a whole. The lacking depth of the two leads makes me feel like screenwriter Chris Frisina erred in not making the movie about Dermot Mulroney’s Elliot, who is by far the most interesting character in the movie. Mulroney gives the film’s best performance, one that alternates between arrogance and menace in a second’s notice. Perhaps had the film focused on Elliot it could’ve avoided the feeling of familiarity that permeates throughout the film’s second half.
Even with all the extremely familiar areas of the story, director Elizabeth Allen does an admirable job at keeping Careful What You Wish For moving forward even if it isn’t as suspenseful as intended. The film really starts to buckle under its own weight in the final act, where Allen and Frisina get a little too interested in twists that don’t really pay off. Matters aren’t helped by the wholly unnecessary and trite voiceover that bookends the film. Careful What You Wish For is just missing a few ingredients that would push the film over the top. The film travails in the standard trappings of a thriller, nodding along the way to the film’s Alfred Hitchcock without bringing anything new to the table. Sadly, there’s nothing in this moralistic thriller to separate it from countless others.
Careful What You Wish For
- Overall Score
A rather generic thriller, Careful What You Wish For is a middle of the road film featuring a solid performance from Dermot Mulroney that counters the bland performance given by Nick Jonas.