By John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service
"The Stepfather" (Screen Gems) is director Nelson
McCormick's tedious remake of Joseph Rubin's 1987 chillfest of the same
title which, like its two sequels, received an "O" classification from
the Office for Film & Broadcasting. Though the homicidal episodes
in this misguided attempt at a reboot are relatively restrained, the
moral outlook of the latest version earns it a similar thumbs-down.
Returning home from the military school to which he has been
consigned for past unruliness, Michael (Penn Badgley) finds his
divorced mother, Susan (Sela Ward), living with, and engaged to, David
(Dylan Walsh), a seemingly affable but strangely resume-free fellow she
met in a grocery store.
As the audience knows from the opening scenes, and as Michael
gradually begins to suspect, David's smiles and pro-family sentiments
disguise a murderous agenda, though no coherent motive is ever
suggested for his pursuit of it. With viewers thus deliberately tipped
off to the mystery man's true identity from the start, the only
potential for suspense lies in waiting for the other characters—a
remarkably dense lot—to catch up with the audience.
In the interval, we're introduced to Michael's girlfriend,
Kelly (Amber Heard), whose wardrobe seems to consist almost entirely of
bikinis and underwear, and to Susan's sister, who is involved in a
lesbian relationship that J.S. Cardone's script implicitly and
Though scenes of Michael and Kelly clinching on his bed or in
the backyard pool are not overly explicit, the fact that both are still
in high school suggests that such activity is not only maritally but
The film contains a benign view of homosexual acts,
cohabitation, brief nongraphic nonmarital (possibly underage) sexual
activity, moderate criminal violence, a half-dozen uses of profanity,
and a few crude and crass terms. The USCCB Office for Film &
Broadcasting classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion
Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly
cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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