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September 06, 2002 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-09-06

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4

Friday
September , 2002
michigandaily.com/arts
mae@michigandaily.com

ARTS

8

4

An all around bad effort ruins 'Swinfan'

By Ryan Blay
Daily TV/New Media Editor

The best part about seeing John
Polson's disastrous "Swimfan" at
the theater was the appearance of
radio personalities from local sta-
tion Q95.5. After they finished giv-
ing away free CDs and T-shirts,
however, the movie started. After
that, the fun stopped.
Madison Bell is troubled. The
cousin of a local dweeb, Madison
(Erika Christensen, "Traffic") uses
music to escape from her troubles.
The cello is like a drug to her (a sly
reference to her crack abusing char-
acter in "Traffic," perhaps? No, just
a week attempt to flesh out her
character). If this concept is too
hard to understand, you best not go
see this film. The actual cause of
her disturbances, to be fair, is
explained later. However, the expla-
nation is far from believable or nec-
essary, except, of course, to the
lame ending.
Madison stumbles upon star
swimmer Ben Cronin (Jesse Brad-
ford, "Romeo + Juliet"), perhaps
accidentally. OK, not accidentally.

It was all planned. This is pretty
obvious. Golden boy Ben works at
the local hospital with his mother
and uses swimming as his release.
Apparently, he used to be involved
in drugs until swimming helped
turn his life around in juvenile
detention. Gee, hope that doesn't
haunt him later on in the movie.
You can pretty much guess what
happens. They meet, he nearly runs
her over, drives her home. She sub-
tly hints she wants din-
ner. They go, and
rather than take her
home, she manipulates
his sorry ass into going
for a swim. By swim, I SWIM
mean sex at the 9 ft.
deep marking in the At Show
pool.
This one-night stand 20th Cen
turns dangerous. Ben
can't let anything distract him from
preparing for the big swim meet,
where his future dream of going to
Stanford will be in the balance.
Furthermore, he already has a per-
fectly wonderful waitress girlfriend,
Amy, the girl around whom he's
planning his future. Fortunately, he

A
rc
4,
it

doesn't mention her to Madison so
she gets angry and attacks Amy ...
oops, he did that too.
Two things make this film sink
like a drowning Madison at the end
of the film: The first is the acting.
Erika Christensen's eyes convey her
confusion and anger, but Chris-
tensen herself is emotionally flat.
And Ben, man he is bad. Bradford
is nearly a dead ringer for Freddie
Prinze Jr. and is clearly evoking his
doppelganger's fine
performance in "Sum-
mer Catch." I wish I
could say something
about Shiri Appleby's
[FAN Amy, but her character
is so depraved of sub-
case and stance that you end up
y 16 feeling bad for Apple-
tury Fox by more than her cuck-
olded character. Ben's
friends are no more than weak cari-
catures of high school kids. Appar-
ently two of the. friends are fighting
since they used to date, but this is
never examined. Neither is Ben's
past , history of delinquencies;
stealing to fund a drug habit prior
to turning his life around. The
director has instead chosen to use
his hour and a half to focus on a
stoned-looking Madison paging
Ben and leaving her panties in his
care on purpose.
Even outstanding character actor
Dan Hedaya ("Commando") is left
with a stereotype of a character in
Ben's demanding swimming coach.
The second is the script. If you
thought the roses in "American
Beauty" or the feather in "Forrest
Gump" was heavy-handed, wait
until you see how Polson uses such
items as a hairpin. The purpose of
writing a script is not to bring back
subtle items from the beginning of
the film and work them into the
conclusion. If anybody was unable
to gather the majority of the plot
from trailers, then shame on them.
Also, is the audience supposed to
giggle when Cronin and his girls

are having passionate, tense conver-
sations? It says something if even
the most accepting audiences can't
buy the drama of Ben's attempts to
distance himself from the psychotic
Madison and protect his friends,
girlfriend and family from her.
Of course, the person who recog-
nizes Madison as a threat is ignored
like a modern day Cassandra.
Everyone else is blind to her threat,
including Ben's mom, who unex-
pectedly receives flowers and a visit
from Madison on her birthday. Yet
the mother is too stupid to wonder
what this strange girl is doing in her
house looking at Ben's baby pic-
tures. Furthermore, nobody recog-
nizes her stealing into the boy's
locker room or impersonating a
doctor in a hospital. But then again,
in a film partially set at a school
where nobody actually attends a
class, where a kid can look at nude
pictures of a teenaged girl on a
school library's computer, implausi-
bility is just the norm.
The music contributes to the
mood of corniness and lame
teenage angst. Combining emotion-
al female singers, whiny, bland
punk-pop and other genres that
belong in "American Pie 2,", the
song choices only enforce the belief
that this film is a closet comedy,
rather than the thriller "Fatal Attrac-
tion"-in-a-high-school look its
attempting to pull off.
ESPN.com's Page Two recently
released its list of the top 20 sports
movies. Suffice it to say that
"Swimfan" won't be making the list
any time soon. With any luck, it
will fall along with "Caddyshack
2," "The Air Up There" and "Karate
Kid 3" as among the worst in recent
history.
It may not strike you until after
you walk out of the theater, but
what you've just seen is a really
poor film. Just all-around, top-to-
bottom drivel. Bradford, Chris-
tensen, prepare your Razzies
speeches now.

Courtesy of USA Films
Using the ID, buying the drugs. A slightly kinder Christensen.
Christensen rises up
fro-m McDonald's ad

By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor
Launched into the national spot-,
light playing a desperate drug-lov-
ing Caroline Wakefield in Steven
Soderbergh's wildly acclaimed
2000 film, "Traffic" starlet Erika
Christensen is a busy women in
Hollywood now. After turning just
20 last August, Christensen opens
her first film this weekend with the
sultry-suspense flick "Swimfan."
The new 20-something has
known she wanted to be an actress
since she was just 12, growing up
on the outskirts of Los Angeles,
California, Christensen saw her
first role in a McDonald's commer-
cial. Landing a role in the national
advertising campaign for Mickey-
Ds was quite a jump-start for the
young Christensen. She expanded
on her commercial career by jump-
ing on with another giant cooperate
machine Disney.
Christensen landed a part in the
1997 Disney-flick "Leave it to
Beaver," playing the part of Karen.
Though the movie wasn't much of a
success, Christensen earned high
marks critically.
Erika deftly parlayed the "Leave it
to Beaver" role into a slew of guest-

starring roles on televisions shows,
most notably "Fraiser," "The Prac-
tice" and "3rd Rock From the Sun."
From here it was only a matter of
time until she landed her role in
"Traffic" and propelled herself into
the national eye.
In the wake of "Traffic" Chris-
tensen's portrayal of Caroline earned
her very strong reviews and she was
able to add some brass to her award
shelf. Christensen took home an
MTV popcorn for Female Break-
through Performance as well as shar-
ing in the Outstanding Performance
by a Cast or Ensemble at the Screen
Actors Guild awards.
Now, Erika has moved from play-
ing the drug addicted daughter of
Michael Douglas to the psychotic
Madison Bell in "Swimfan." Chris-
tensen's character falls madly for
swim team star Jesse Bradford (Ben
Cronin). The plot twists and turns and
without ruining any surprises, many
people end up dead.
Christensen's next project is a com-
plete departure from the mentally-
deranged Madison Bell. She will play
the daughter of Susan Sarandon in the
upcoming "Banger Sisters." The film
stars Goldie Hawn and Sarandon as a
couple of middle-aged ex-groupies
trying to recapture their youth.

Members of the 'Swimfan' meat market.

_ _ _ _ _ a

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