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The Stepfather

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 matter-of-factly endorses.

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 developmentally premature.

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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