The best part about seeing John Polson’s disastrous “Swimfan” at the theater was the appearance of radio personalities from local station Q95.5. After they finished giving away free CDs and T-shirts, however, the movie started. After that, the fun stopped.

Paul Wong

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 character 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 explanation is far from believable or necessary, except, of course, to the lame ending.

Madison stumbles upon star swimmer Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford, “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 subtly hints she wants dinner. They go, and rather than take her home, she manipulates his sorry ass into going for a swim. By swim, I mean sex at the 9 ft. deep marking in the pool.

This one-night stand 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 perfectly wonderful waitress girlfriend, Amy, the girl around whom he’s planning his future. Fortunately, he 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 Christensen 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 “Summer Catch.” I wish I could say something about Shiri Appleby’s Amy, but her character is so depraved of substance that you end up feeling bad for Appleby more than her cuckolded character. Ben’s friends are no more than weak caricatures of high school kids. Apparently 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 conversations? 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 recognizes Madison as a threat is ignored like a modern day Cassandra. Everyone else is blind to her threat, including Ben’s mom, who unexpectedly 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 pictures. Furthermore, nobody recognizes 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, implausibility is just the norm.

The music contributes to the mood of corniness and lame teenage angst. Combining emotional 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 Attraction”-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, Christensen, prepare your Razzies speeches now.

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