Frank and Susan Morrison (Travolta and Polo, respectively) have recently divorced, and Susan has started a new life marrying the richer and younger Rick Barnes (Vaughn). While Frank and Susan seem to have graciously accepted this new course of their lives, their 12-year-old son Danny (O'Leary) is more problematic: he often gets in trouble and lie—all of this to catch their attention, according to the school psychologist. Moreover, he doesn't like his mother's new husband and one day, completely by chance, he witnesses him doing something...
This film provides examples of:
- A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: On the surface, Rick is a kind, generous man who made some good business investments and just wants to settle down and have a family in a small town. He's actually a criminal who made his fortune via embezzlement and isn't afraid to murder former associates to cover it up.
- Batter Up!: Danny whacks Rick with a bat.
- Beneath the Mask: Rick treats Danny well at first, but he reveals that he actually hates him and only tolerates Danny so he can marry his mother. There's also the whole issue of him being a criminal and murderer, of course.
- Convenient Miscarriage: for Susan.
- Crying Wolf: Danny is a compulsive liar who makes up things for attention. He's so well known for lying to everyone that literally nobody believes him when reporting Ray's murder.
- Domestic Abuse: Rick begins to abuse Danny as soon as the accusations come out, and later outright beats both Danny and Susan.
- Fiery Cover-Up: Rick, twice. Once when he kills Ray by burning the body, and a second attempted one when burning down Frank's business after knocking him out.
- Instant Death Stab: Ray is stabbed with an ice pick a single time, which causes him to immediately go limp and die literally mid-sentence.
- Love Makes You Dumb: Susan is willing to ignore a lot of things and completely discredit her own son just to please Rick.
- Love Redeems: During the climax, starts as an Invoked Trope by Rick, who gives a sweet goodbye speech and kiss to Susan, then a Subverted Trope when Susan hits him and he immediately calls her "bitch", completely unleashing himself.
- Papa Wolf: Frank to Danny. Frank openly warns Rick that he will kill him if he harms even a single hair on Danny.
- Playing Catch with the Old Man: Danny and Rick play catch. It quickly turns abusive, though, as Rick just uses it as an opportunity to demean and insult Danny in private, so nobody will believe him.
- Police Are Useless: The police actively seek a reason to not have to do their job and investigate Danny's accusations, wanting to just chalk it up to a jealous child trying to get his stepdad in trouble.
- Would Hurt a Child: Rick has no problem abusing Danny in order to silence him.
- Would Hit a Girl: Rick has no issue with hitting his wife to keep her from reporting his crimes either.