Nick Jonas: hot or not?
If you’re squealing right now, you’re among the very focused-grouped dopes — I mean demographic — that “Careful What You Wish For” is aiming to reel in with its six-pack slo-mos and seemingly intentional bits of cheese. (Just to make sure that, if nothing else, this howler can one day be embraced as camp.)
Besides being a Jonas drooler, it boosts the filmmakers’ case if you’ve never seen a thriller before. Director Elizabeth Allen (yes, a woman!) and first-time scripter Chris Frisina have borrowed liberally from an abundance of sucker noirs, from “Double Indemnity” to “Side Effects” to, naturally, “The Boy Next Door.” Taking place at North Carolina’s aptly double-entendre’d Lake Lure, “Careful” sinks from the start, with a voiceoever by Doug (Jonas) that sounds as if it’s straight from Final Draft for Kids. Doug is talking about the magic of summer, with its feeling that “anything can happen. And in my case (beat)…”
Gold star if you guess his next two words.
Between Doug and his friend Carson (Graham Rogers), it’s clear that Doug is the serious one. Carson’s all about the girls, whereas Doug is interested in only one: Lena (Isabel Lucas), the woman-child who moves into the adjacent beach house with her wealthy but angry-looking husband, Elliot (Dermot Mulroney). Conveniently, Elliot has a boat that needs repairs, and Doug is an expert. And ridiculously, Elliot has a wife who needs sex, and Doug is…a virgin.
Still, Lena teases him, sunning herself in a barely-there bikini and slowly stripping off said two-piece when she showers after a swim. Later, when she locks herself out of the house, she waits for Doug to help her as rain pours down. Soon Lena herself is going down — to clean up a cut on the high schooler’s stomach — kneeling before him and looking up at him all porny. Then she literally blows (on) him.
During these hawt scenes, a Trent Reznor-ish score plays, ensuring that you understand that Jonas is now grown enough to be involved in something this hardcore. Because even though Doug is pure, Lena can’t get enough. “Right now, I can’t wait!” she says in one scene, grabbing him in the town’s convenience store as Elliot waits in the car. Doug quickly starts copping a ‘tude with Elliot, whom he spies pushing Lena around one night. “Maybe you have to treat people right for them to appreciate you,” Doug tells Elliot when the businessman complains vaguely about his wife. Burn!
Of course, Doug is being used — sorry, Jonatics — and watching the game reveal itself offers some satisfying laughs, such as bells clanging after a cutaway from Doug and Lena kissing. Or Elliot’s suggestion, “How about we tag-team her?”, referring to the boat. Or simply the straightforward dialogue, such as Lena telling Doug, “I need you!” followed almost immediately with, “We have to be apart.” And the plot holes; is it even necessary to mention that there are plot holes?
To be fair, the unraveling of “Careful” is not the fault of the stars. Jonas plays it low-key and is effective at portraying a kid with a big secret; that the script has him staring out the window a thousand times was beyond his control. And Lucas, an Australian actress who broke out (to use the term loosely) in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” nails the sexy blonde thing (and an American accent) by delivering her lines in a high, breathy voice with a laugh that practically tinkles. But whatever, it works.
Even part of the ending is a bit of a surprise — the part that’s not absurd, that is. But the few positives in “Careful What You Wish For” aren’t nearly enough to recommend it to anyone looking for a more serious mind-bender at the movies. Doug speaks for Mr. Jonas when Lena tells him, “Don’t do anything stupid.” He responds, “It’s too late.”