It’s hard to say what longtime Jonas Brothers fans will make of Nick Jonas’ starring role in the erotic thriller Careful What You Wish For. But in an effort to shake up his career and leave boyhood behind, the pop star may have overshot the mark. After spending the better part of a decade as a sex symbol, Jonas finally gets to play a dude who has sex. Repeatedly. And not with one of his young admirers who’d really appreciate what he was all about. Instead, the hero ends up in the arms of a predatory older woman who just wants his chiseled, shirtless body.
To be fair, “older” is a relative term here. Jonas was a few months shy of 21 when he played Careful What You Wish For’s Doug Martin, a bookish teenager who spends the summer before his freshman year of college working for tips in a North Carolina resort town. And Isabel Lucas had just turned 28 when she took on the role of Lena, trophy wife to smug investment banker Elliot Harper (played by Dermot Mulroney). But the movie still makes a big deal of the disparity in their ages and sexual experience, positioning her as the rapaciously lusty femme fatale who corrupts an innocent honors student. (Again, repeatedly.)
The dreary repetition of the affair sinks Careful What You Wish For. That, and the fact that both leads are lightweights. Lucas and Jonas are okay actors, but neither has the wit, gravity, or sensuality to stand up to the classic film noir duos they’re meant to evoke. They’re not exactly Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, or William Hurt and Kathleen Turner. Jonas may well become an accomplished dramatic actor someday. He’s actually quite good in the upcoming frat-hazing indie drama Goat, which did well at Sundance earlier this year—and which in retrospect the singer may have wished had come out before this much lumpier effort. But if a movie’s going to insist on its audience watching two people have an illicit fling for the better part of an hour, that couple needs to be a lot more charismatic.
What’s especially disappointing about Careful What You Wish For is that in its final third—after a bloody crime that puts Doug and Lena on the defensive—the film actually gets good. Veteran TV director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum (who helmed the feature films Aquamarine and Ramona And Beezus) builds tension and momentum as the screws tighten around the lovers, and Chris Frisina’s script throws in a few good twists, along with an amusingly in-over-her-head insurance investigator well-played by Kandyse McClure. In a general sense, the modern business of B-movies could use more gamy crime-of-passion stories like this one, as opposed to the proliferation of cheap horror and low-rent shoot-em-ups.
But during the development of Careful What You Wish For, the people behind the camera must’ve decided to maximize their most exploitable asset—a multi-platinum-selling dreamboat—by spending the lion’s share of the picture showing this good-hearted fellow falling into the wrong gal’s bed, then sharing dreary pillow talk about their respective hopes and dreams. Hiding the romance adds a modicum of drama to the furtive smooches and humping, but for the most part, an awful lot of this film is about two not-that-fascinating folks sneaking off to get it on. After a while, even the young women and men who used to look up at their Nick Jonas posters and imagine getting naked with him may get bored with actually seeing, over and over, what they’d built up so much in their imaginations.