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Swim Fan (PG-13)
20th Century Fox
Official Site
Director: John Polson
Producers: John Penotti, Allison Lyon Segan, Joe Caracciolo Jr.
Written by: Charles Bohl and Phillip Schneider
Cast: Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, Shiri Appleby, Kate Burton, Dan Hedaya

Rating: out of 5

I imagine that Steven Soderbergh must be shaking his head in utter dismay right now, at least if he’s watching the new teen scare fare Swimfan. After all, our favorite chrome-domed director not only gave stars Bradford and Christensen their first big breaks—in King of the Hill and Traffic, respectively—but also their most critically-acclaimed roles to date. In return, he gets to watch them throw away their bright careers on a pitiful high school rendition of Fatal Attraction.

Barely falling into the category of so-bad-it’s-good, Swimfan stars Bradford as high school swimming champion Ben Cronin, who strikes the fancy of new girl Madison Bell (Christensen). The two make googly eyes at each other, but Ben tells her it can’t go any further than that; after all, his goody-goody girlfriend Amy (Appleby) is so devoted, she’s willing to give up her college plans just to be with him.

And while it comes as a complete shocker that a horny high school kid would ever even consider cheating on his straight-laced girlfriend, that is precisely what our breast-stroking boy toy does. Seduced by Madison’s suggestion of a late night poolside rendezvous, the two teens get down and dirty, bobbing more ferociously than those cheap buoys used to separate the lanes. While this scene certainly doesn’t make swimming pool sex sessions look especially appealing, Madison’s admission that she can’t swim supplies you with a rather good idea of how the film will end—imagine if Fatal Attraction’s Glenn Close had uttered the line, “I can’t deflect bullets.”

But Ben is essentially a good boy, and decides to brush off Madison’s advances from here on out, mostly because he feels guilty about betraying his perfect—i.e. perfectly boring—lady love (either that, or he just doesn’t go for the weirdo stalker types. You decide). This doesn’t set well with the flaxen-haired femme fatale, prompting her to send nude pictures of herself to Ben, a fate most men would not consider so tragic. However, Madison doesn’t stop there; first she inundates her aloof amour with phone calls, pages, and e-mail, until deciding that wrecking his life is a far better option, and a much more attention-getting one at that.

There’s not a lot of motivation behind the Madison character; it’s hastily explained that the love of her life is lingering in a coma, which oh-so-reasonably prompts her to become a nymphomaniacal murderess—guess there’s no better way to win a man’s love than by fucking and killing all of his closest friends. Christensen does a good enough job with her wild-eyed rants, but that only carries an actress so far, especially when working with a script that appears to have been written by a gaggle of mildly retarded monkeys.

Bradford, on the other hand, is as bland as always, employing his perpetually reliable half sneer in an effort to show irritation, surprise, fear, and anger. To be perfectly honest, he’s like the cinematic equivalent of Andrew Shue, a mono-emotioned pretty boy whose career—if there is in fact any justice in the world—will end soon, thereby putting audiences out of their misery and eliminating the slight chance that there could ever be a Clockstoppers 2.

Directed by Polson, Swimfan does have moments of wit, but they’re few and far between. I’m not sure the film is even capable of achieving the kind of quasi-cult status of Urban Legends; it says a lot that it exceeds even that uninspiring cinematic experience in pure banality. The best thing that can be said about Swimfan is that at a mere 82 minutes, it manages to register more as a mild irritation than an insufferable outing.

—Erin Steele


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