Owen Gleiberman
April 26, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT


Current Status
In Season

We gave it an B

Fear is a teen Fatal Attraction, and — surprise — it isn’t bad. Sixteen-year-old Nicole (Reese Witherspoon) has barely wriggled into her first miniskirt when she falls for a lowlife drifter (Mark Wahlberg). The film’s clever hook is that in the overpermissive ’90s, when high schoolers routinely brush off their parents’ best instincts as sheer cluelessness, the trepidation of Nicole’s architect dad (William Petersen) only pushes her further into the arms of Mr. Wrong. Witherspoon, whose big, innocent eyes give her the look of an erotic star child, captures the fragility of all those nice middle-class girls who act out their independence by falling for a danger-zone stud. And Wahlberg (the former Marky Mark) gives a genuine performance; he goes from slit-eyed cool to pleading fake earnestness so quickly it’s funny, yet you can feel the rage coming through his white-sandpaper skin. Director James Foley does a fine job evoking the sexual tensions between father, daughter, and rogue suitor, but he has less luck with the (inevitable) garish climax, which is so unconvincingly staged it never even makes it over the top. B

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