Lifetime Film Review: The Wrong Stepmother (dir by David DeCoteau)


“I hear that Maddie is one bad mother….”

“Shut your mouth!”

“But I’m talking about Maddie.”

“Then we can dig it!”

Actually, Maddie (Cindy Busby) is not a mother, though she would like to be.  She not even a stepmother, despite what the title says.  Instead, she’s just dating the recently widowed Michael (Corin Nemec).  If she does end up marrying Michael, Maddie will become a stepmother — perhaps even a WRONG stepmother — to his two daughters, Lilly (Calli Taylor) and Nicole (McKinley Blehm).

It doesn’t take Lilly long to realize that there’s something off about Maddie.  For one thing, she catches Maddie trying to check her social media.  Then she overhears Maddie claiming to be her mother.  And finally, Maddie changes up Lilly’s college admission essay.  See, Lilly wrote about how much her late mother influenced her.  Maddie, however, changes it into an essay about how much Lilly loves her future stepmother.

Yes, Maddie has some issues.  As we discover at the start of the film, she has a history of stalking people.  About halfway through the film, she murders two people.  Whenever you’re watching a film on Lifetime, you know someone’s going to get murdered at exactly halfway through the film.  You can set the time by it.

As with all of Lifetime’s “Wrong” films, Vivica A. Fox has a small role.  In this one, she plays Ms. Price, the high school guidance counselor who is extremely unimpressed by Lilly’s college admissions essay.  When Ms. Price confronts Lilly about how unimpressive her essay was, Fox delivers the lines with such subtle fury and annoyance that it brought back a lot of high school memories for me.  As played by Fox, Ms. Price is the type of high school counselor who scares you to death but who also changes your life for the better.  If Ms. Price had been my counselor, I definitely wouldn’t have spent so much time skipping class and shoplifting makeup at Target.

Anyway, the main complaint that you always hear about Lifetime films is that they’re all exactly the same but that’s actually their appeal.  They’re fun to watch, precisely because 1) they’re predictable and 2) the viewer is always going to be smarter than the people in the movie.  I mean, we can take one look at Maddie and say, “Okay, don’t let her in the house.”  However, Michael’s not that smart and, if he was, we really wouldn’t have a movie.  Sometimes, you just have to stop crying about plausibility and enjoy what you’re watching.

The Wrong Stepmother gets a big boost from the casting of the always likable Corin Nemec as Michael.  I mean, it’s pretty much impossible not to root for a character played by Corin Nemec, even if that character is way too trusting of someone who he met on a dating app.  Meanwhile, Cindy Busby is properly psychotic as Maddie and, of course, you’ve got Vivica A. Fox changing lives as Ms. Price.

The Wrong Stepmother is an entertaining Lifetime film.  Watch it with your snarkiest friends.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #197: My Daughter’s Ransom (dir by Doug Campbell)


On Thursday, I watched the first Lifetime film of 2019, My Daughter’s Ransom!

(a.k.a. My Daughter’s Ransom)

Why Was I Watching It?

New year, new lifetime movies!  Every year brings changes but one thing that will never change will be my love for these films and the enjoyment I get from reviewing them.

What Was It About?

Rachel (Scottie Thompson) has a good life.  Her husband, Tony (Matthew Pohlkamp), is a successful businessman who is on the verge of finalizing a big deal.  Her daughter, Lindsey (McKinley Blehm), is intelligent enough to know all about the theories of Charles Darwin.

Unfortunately, Rachel also has an ex-boyfriend named Carter (Lucas Kerr).  Carter’s just been released from prison and, as quickly becomes apparent, his incarceration did not lead to rehabilitation.  After spending months stalking Rachel and her family, Carter kidnaps Lindsey at the zoo.  If Rachel doesn’t do everything that Carter orders her to do, he’ll kill her daughter.

As Rachel tries to figure out a way to save her daughter, she also has to keep following Carter’s orders, which are not only increasingly outlandish but also increasingly dangerous for both Rachel and everyone that she loves….

What Worked?

As anyone who has spent any time watching the channel can tell you, the theme of abduction is a popular one when it comes to Lifetime movies.  That’s because these films deal with the fears that every parent has, not only that your child will be abducted but that you’ll be powerless to rescue them.  My Daughter’s Ransom did a good job of making that fear feel real, especially in the early moments when Rachel was desperately running around the zoo, looking for her daughter.  (The camera holds Rachel in a tight close-up while she searches for her daughter, emphasizing Rachel’s desperation to find her.)

For a film like this to work, you need a good villain and Lucas Kerr did a great job making Carter into the type of creepy, hissable bad guy who you just couldn’t wait to see get his comeuppance.  In the role of Rachel, Scottie Thompson also did great work and it was impossible not to sympathize with her as she tried to get someone to notice that she was in trouble without Carter figuring out what she was doing.

In fact, the entire cast did a great job.  My two favorite supporting characters were Gina (Davida Williams), the wife of Tony’s business partner, and Skates (Erika Fong), Tony’s secretary.  Neither one of them was willing to put up with any nonsense.  Personally, I think we need a sequel where Gina and Skates team up and solve crimes.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked!  My Daughter’s Ransom got the year off to a good start.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Much like Rachel, I once had a weakness for bad boys.  Actually, now that I think about it, I still do.  That said, the character I most admired was Skates because it didn’t matter how much Carter ordered Rachel to yell at her and threaten to fire her, Skates wasn’t going to let anyone stop her from doing her job.

Lessons Learned

Bad boys never change.