Swimfan

Standing pool side in his black Speedos, hair wet and water dripping down his chest, Jesse Bradford (Clockstoppers) looks like another in a long line of post-pubescent Calvin Kline underwear models. He’s as cute as a button, and his character in “Swimfan,” Ben Cronin, is about as smart as one.


You’d have to be pretty stupid, or naive, or both, not to see that the new girl in school, Madison Bell (Erika Christensen) is bad news. Not just bad news, really bad news. Obviously Ben and his friends have never seen “Fatal Attraction,” because if they had, they would recognize that Madison is more than just a pretty face, a hot bod, a sincere smile and a sexy demeanor.

Welcome to “Fatal Attraction” as presented by the senior class drama department, a short (84 minutes) and extremely derivative teen thriller that exploits rather than builds on the original. I have nothing against mindless entertainment (hey, I watch CNN), but “Swimfan” is the film equivalent of a frontal lobotomy. The only way for the plot to advance is for stupid people to do stupid things, and after a while you wonder why they even bother. Boil the whole bunch of them in a rabbit stew and get it over with.

The screenplay by Charles Bohl and Phillip Schneider is an insult to anyone with an I.Q. of 10 or higher. The writers tug and pull at the plot’s common sense and logic so much that the film begins to resemble a “Stretch Armstrong” action figure. No matter how much they try, Bohl and Schneider can’t disguise the fact that they’re wading in the shallow end of the gene pool.

Bradford has the right look, but lacks the confidence to play a character as layered as Ben. A former bad boy, Ben has cleaned up his act and hopes his talent as a swimmer will lead to a college scholarship. Now a varsity letterman, Ben shares his happiness with his girlfriend Amy (Shiri Appleby), and his single mom.

All that changes when Madison invades one of Ben’s late-night workouts, slipping out of her clothes and into the pool. Confused, disoriented and ready to pop the elastic lining out of his speedos, Ben gives into temptation, making sure Madison understands it’s just a one time thing.

Yeah, sure, whatever. Should we order the bunnies now, or wait for the wedding? In true stalker fashion, Madison insinuates herself into every aspect of Ben’s life, making sure that he gets the point. Since at any given point we’re ten pages ahead of the characters, it becomes infuriating waiting for them to catch up. Ben is not only slow to grasp the situation, it takes more than one act of desperation from Madison to make him wake up and smell the coffee. By then Madison already has him by the beans.

I abhor cautionary tales that necessitate the characters be dumber than doorknobs. Those people deserve what they get. It’s called natural selection. Ben should be much smarter, yet every step he takes makes us cringe in anticipation. He’s totally clueless, even when his friends, job and college career are threatened.

It’s excruciating watching the talented Christensen vamp her way through “Swimfan.” After a potent turn as Michael Douglas’s drug-addicted daughter in “Traffic,” Christensen should have been able to choose any project she wanted. Her logic in selecting “Swimfan” escapes me. Madison is presented so matter-of-fact she becomes one-dimensional, forcing Christensen to play only the surface of what should have been an extremely complex character.

Bradford is colorless, a good looking kid with a nice smile, and not much more. Ben is supposed to have a dark past, yet there is nothing in Bradford’s performance that suggests anything more than a vanilla upbringing. When Ben’s friends start meeting unfortunate fates, Bradford does manage to evoke a certain amount of concern, but not enough to make us care.

The rest of the kids in the cast are rather generic, while the adults stand around and look somber. They’ve obviously seen Adrian Lyne’s “Fatal Attraction” and feel ashamed for being part of this travesty. Writers Bohl and Schneider aren’t paying homage, they’re literally ripping-off the plot with a few minor adjustments.

“Fatal Attraction” was extremely relevant when it was released in 1987. It spoke to a generation of love them and leave them strangers who never took the time to realize that their actions had consequences. It was a lesson well learned, but one obviously lost on this gaggle of horny teenagers.

SECOND OPINION I.M.D.B.

FATAL AQUATIC ATTRACTION

Wicked Erika Christensen wants to be Jesse’s girl

SWIMFAN

Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, Shiri Appleby, Kate Burton, Clayne Crawford, Jason Ritter. Directed by John Polson. Rated PG-13. 84 Minutes.

LARSEN RATING: $2.00



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