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Starring Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen and Shiri Appleby; Kate Burton and Dan Hedaya
Written by Charles Bohl & Phillip Schneider
Directed by Jon Polson

IN SHORT: Generic thriller junk. [Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexual content, disturbing images and language. 86 minutes]

Well, the film makers of tomorrow have got to learn their craft somewhere. Usually it's in school, followed by at least a couple of years of rejections by suits that know even less about moviemaking than the college graduates of whom we write. Sometimes, though, starters get a small budget and get to make a movie for studio distribution. Thus we get Swimfan which, had we been fourteen and not allowed by our parents to rent Scream, is a passable sort of thriller to sneak into when those old farts are thinking we're heading out to see something fit for babies. Since we're not fourteen we can report that Swimfan features a wisp of a story so barely developed that two or three music over MOS (filmspeak for "without sound") sequences are necessary to pad out what the screenwriters didn't take the time to write. Director Jon Polson falls back on annoying, stuttering music video type editing to give the film the appearance of being relevant to young minds who don't mind stuttering music video type visual distractions.

The sad thing is that Swimfan needed only one thing to give it the creepy, nasty aspect that films like this need (at least IMHO). All it needed was a simple instruction to evil bad girl Erika Christensen to smile a little. We'll explain in a paragraph or so.

It is never specified but we think we're on pretty safe ground in stating that Swimfan is a story set in a high school somewhere in New Jersey, just across the river from the remains of New York seen in background shots. Our main characters, Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford) and girlfriend Amy Miller (Shiri Appleby), are in their senior year and facing the prospect that their deep and passionate love may well be tested by many things geographical. As in thousands of miles between California, where Ben's college choice, Stanford, is, and Rhode Island, where Amy has set her sights.Ben's decision is dependent upon cutting five seconds off his fifty meter swim time, he being one of two stars of the school varsity swim team.

Love is good. School choices can be adjusted and all is well with their world until Madison Bell (Erika Christensen, click for StarTalk), a blonde bombshell who only knows how to smile until she gets what she wants, shows up as the new kid in school. She gets what she wants -- Ben. She gets him to lie and say "I love you" during the act of making love. From that point on, it's nothing but a smirk on that pretty face and a humdrum a script that's a couple of drafts short of anything that makes sense as it tries to build Madison into more than the lunatic stalker that she apparently was before she moved into this community. Once she starts making Ben's life a living hell, for deciding he prefers his long time girlfriend, this bad girl can only smirk at each twist of fate she brings about. We don't actually see her bring about any of 'em. We just hear Ben accuse her to thin air. Locking Christensen into a one dimensional mode takes all the evil out of her character.

Also important to note, as in a lot of these crappers, is the utter lack of parental authority. That works fine for a bunch of kidlets partying in a house but when there's some heavy duty material involving life and death a couple of things occur in this story that are sheer manipulation and total nonsense. You'll have to run your mouse over the white space below because we're going to give away some Third Act action . . . Amy, as we approach the climax of the film, is run down by Ben's truck -- Ben is accused of the crime and even though it's clear to all authorities who done the deed, no adult figure appears to bring the hammer down. Once said hammer is brought down, the ailing Amy is not returned to her parents, no she bunks down in Ben's house. Very convenient if a lunatic manages to escape the cops and come gunning for 'em all, but way too convenient. If the lunatic wants to after the girl, why go to the boy's house? Manipulation of a kind that only the very young could buy into, if indeed they've bought into a sloppy story.

Of course, it could be a sloppy edit job, too. Doesn't really matter to us. Sloppy and dumb is exactly what it looks like. Swimfan is a movie made on the cheap. No name, but pretty to look at stars. A story that isn't much more than a concept and overall direction with no sense of the flow of time.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Swimfan, he would have paid . . .


Strictly for kids who haven't seen better.

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