A long-lost son leads to trouble for Vivica A. Fox in this routine drama made fresh by an excellent cast.
You are watching: The wrong child lifetime
Renee Callahan (Vivica A. Fox) has rebuilt her life quite well following her first husband's tragic death: a beautiful home, an ambitious daughter, and a handsome and doting husband—though Charles's (Gary Daniels) hectic work schedule has more than gotten under Renee's skin. But things for the Callahans take a sharp turn with the arrival of a shocking guest: Andrew Haight (Robbie Davidson), who introduces himself as Charles's son from a previous relationship.
Andrew's arrival puts a strain on Renee and Charles's already troubled marriage, with Charles being apprehensive over letting Andrew into his life, while Renee and her daughter, Amy (Stevanna Jackson), welcome their new stepson/stepbrother with open arms. But, as Renee and Amy are bonding with their new family member, they remain unaware that Andrew is harboring more than a few secrets, and is willing to go to any length to keep them and remain a part of the Callahan family…
With the latest installment of David DeCoteau's “Wrong” franchise fresh off its premiere, I decided it would be cool to look back at all the “Wrong” films of his series that I've yet to cover here on jonathanlewisforcongress.com, and see how they stand the test of time. The Wrong Child is the second installment in the series, and follows the standard beats of the “Long-Lost Child Returns” Lifetime film. While the plot may not hold any surprises for the more experienced viewers in Lifetime's audience, The Wrong Child boasts a strong cast and a well-structured plot that allows the film to rise above its formulaic nature.
Like in The Wrong Cruise, Vivica A. Fox serves as the film's main protagonist, bringing a natural charm to Renee, akin to Fox's other roles in the “Wrong” series. As the film progresses and Andrew enters the picture, Renee's outrage at Charles's lies and potential betrayal is played well by Fox, even when her anger skirts the line between understandable and unwarranted. Fox also forms a strong dynamic with Gary Daniels, as a seemingly perfect couple whose problems lurk just behind the surface of their idyllic front, with both allowing that tension to subtly manifest in the beginning before coming to the forefront when Andrew enters the picture.
Gary Daniels is similarly charming as Charles, and additionally plays his character in an ambiguous nature. While you know from the beginning that Andrew is up to no good, Daniels allows you to wonder why Charles is so defensive over the prospect of Andrew being his son, and what he could be trying to hide from his family. SPOILER ALERT: Despite the problems that arise from the film's third act pre-climax plot twist, Daniels brings his characterization of Charles full circle by making the seamless transition from suspicious but well-intentioned husband to diabolical mastermind, with the revelation that he was planning to manipulate his wife out of her money in order to save face, making the already-melancholy finale ever more somber. SPOILER OVER.
The surprise knockouts of the film, however, would definitely be Robbie Davidson and Stevanna Jackson. From his first scene of photographing Amy as she jogs, Davidson makes Andrew a villain who is somehow over-the-top and subtle at the same time. From his perfectly malicious gleams he gives to every instance of villainous scheming, to the chill his voice gets whenever his true nature comes to the surface, Davidson makes Andrew an understated but nonetheless terrifying antagonist. At the same time, Davidson also sells Andrew's “Innocent and Slightly Awkward Teen” front, making it believable that Renee and Amy would be so taken by him.
Speaking of Amy, Stevanna Jackson does well in a role that could've easily been a flat and unmemorable one. In the time she is given to develop her character, Jackson brings an instant likability to Amy, particularly in regards to her budding friendship with Andrew. In spite of his shocking appearance in her life, Amy is quick to adjust to the idea of having a stepbrother, with Jackson and Davidson sharing real chemistry in their unfortunately ill-fated friendship. With Fox and Robinson sharing a similar dynamic as Renee works to act as a supportive motherly figure to Andrew, his inevitable villainous reveal is made all the more tragic for the mother-daughter duo. In side performances, Tracy Nelson and Alissa Latow are each strong in their own right as Renee's quirky co-worker Joyce and Amy's best friend Darci, with both almost serving as audience surrogates, due to how quick they are to suspect something amiss with Andrew.
WARNING: Spoilers Below
When it comes to the third act's twist, however, there are a few notable plot holes and issues that can't be covered by suspension of disbelief. Given how Charles's ultimate plan is for Renee to grow close enough to “Andrew” that she would give him money for college, his attempts to dissuade Renee from trusting him and letting him in their house seem counterintuitive. As for Andrew, his villainous breakdown following his murder of Charles makes little sense; given that his primary motivation seemed to be keeping Renee and Amy as his “new family,” him immediately jumping from killing Charles to kidnapping and threatening to kill Amy seems arbitrary, given how neither she nor Renee were (at that point) suspicious of Andrew. To add insult to injury, Renee only caught onto Andrew's true nature as a direct result of him kidnapping Amy.
On a more positive note, while I found the film's ultimate conclusion dissatisfying when the film first premiered, I can now appreciate it for not following the traditional Lifetime formula, and being considerably more realistic for it. Rather than a typical “Flash Forward to Happy Ending” conclusion, we're left with Renee and Amy having to deal with the fallout of Andrew's psychotic rampage, and the fact that it was facilitated by Charles's betrayal. It's a somber ending to a film revolving around a somber situation for all involved.
While it may not be perfect, and it may suffer from some moments of slogging, The Wrong Child remains entertaining as a result of solid pacing, and a cast that brings enough charm to their performances that the routine beats are given a new life. While it may not reach the heights of the “Wrong” saga's premiere film, The Wrong Child stands out as a strong Lifetime thriller in its own right, and is a perfect Lifetime flick to relax to on a weekend.