THE BOY NEXT DOOR ½
2015, R, 91 mins.
2015, R, 91 mins.
Jennifer Lopez as Claire / Ryan Guzman as Noah / John Corbett as Garret / Kristin Chenoweth as Vicky
Directed by Rob Cohen / Written by Barbara Curry
Why does Hollywood routinely make so many wretched erotic thrillers these days?
The recent FIFTY
SHADES OF GREY essentially numbed me into the self-loathing fetal
position, and now comes THE BOY NEXT DOOR, yet another in an
inexcusably long line of FATAL ATTRACTION-esque, fill-in-the-blank-from-hell
In this fill-in-the-blank-from-hell case the film concerns a
psychotic high school boy that begins an illicit sexual fling with his
mid-fortysomething teacher that turns into a lethally dangerous
relationship. For the most
part, THE BOY NEXT DOOR is neither thrilling nor even remotely erotic; it's
just unpardonably and laughably awful on most accounts.
THE BOY NEXT DOOR
is also the poster child for “The Idiot Plot Syndrome,” a cinematic
affliction that affects movies containing characters that could solve all
of their nagging problems immediately…if there were not full-blown
morons. It’s one thing for
the film to contain characters so wooden and generic that they might as
well have been marionette puppets, but it’s a whole other cringe-inducingly
terrible ordeal to witness said characters make irreproachably dumb choices
throughout the story. THE BOY
NEXT DOOR does virtually nothing novel with its been-there/ done-that mad
stalker premise, which bounces around from one maddeningly preordained
plot beat to the next. It
could have at least had the decency to attain a level of unintentionally
funny trash, but THE BOY NEXT DOOR reaches plateaus of startling
ineptitude so frequently that, at 91 minutes long, it feels as long as the
last HOBBIT film.
In this silly,
silly, silly movie Jennifer Lopez plays high school English teacher Claire Peterson
that works in the San Fernando Valley and is enraptured by works like
Homer’s ODYSSEY. Lopez is
45-years-old and, to her credit, is a remarkably ageless presence in the
movies, but here she appears less like a plausible teacher approaching
middle age than she does look like she’s just stepped off of a runway.
She seems impossibly glammed up for a role that would have
benefited from a bit more of a ground normalcy.
Anyhoo’, Claire is a single mom to her young teenage son (Ian
Nelson) and has just come off a nasty separation from her husband (John
Corbett), who apparently committed some level of adultery.
She’s pressing for divorce, whereas he’s desperately urging her
to give him another chance.
Clearly, Claire is feeling rather worthless at the moment, and her son seems to be yearning for another positive male role model in his life after his father exited the scene. Well, salvation, so to speak, comes to both Claire and her kid in the form of a new hunky neighbor named Noah (Ryan Guzman), who has just recently moved in next door to tend after his physically ailing uncle. Initially, Noah comes off as the obligatory – ahem! – boy next door that seems honor bound and willing to help Claire with just about any menial task she requires. He’s really good at fixing storm drains, gutters, and cars…all while Claire lustfully fixates on his chiseled shirtless façade. Noah is the embodiment of a female pornographic fantasy: incalculably good looking, muscle bound, kind, and seemingly available. And good at yard work. That too.
Noah does take a
liking to both Claire and her boy, and he even helps defend the latter
from some school bullies (he seems almost hyper aggressive in the manner
that he trashes them in the school’s hallways).
Noah also manages to take a liking to the works of Homer and
finagles his way into Claire’s English class (it’s revealed that he
never graduated from high school due to his troubled orphan past).
Rather predictably, the needy Claire finds herself ensnared by
Noah’s charm, and the two eventually have a night of carnal pleasure
(which is filmed with maximum exposure to Guzman’s naked buttocks and
minimum exposure to a semi-nude Lopez).
Claire realizes her mistake the next day, but the more she politely
tries to fend off Noah’s advances, the more the teen begins to
demonstrate an unhealthy fixation for Claire that spills over in
predictably nasty ways.
start with one glaring issue with THE BOY NEXT DOOR: Guzman never once
comes off plausibly as a lad that’s 18-years-old (he’s 27 in real
life, which is abundantly clear in the film).
The suspension of disbelief when it comes to the age of the actor
playing the villain rears its head right from the get-go, but this is also
not assisted by the fact that Guzman never feels compellingly or
frighteningly menacing throughout the story. It’s pretty clear that – much like Jamie Dornan in FIFTY
SHADES OF GREY – he was cast ostensibly for his looks and not for
his keen thespian abilities at delving into the deep layers of insanity
that permeates Noah. Note to
all filmmakers making genre pictures like this: get an actor that’s
acceptably unnerving and creepy enough to authentically pull off the antagonist role. Just imagine
what a Miles Teller could have done with this part if cast?
Lopez perhaps may
be the only bright performance spark in this otherwise ridiculous film.
To her credit, she plays her role with as much naturalness as
possibly considering the inane script and overall narrative arc
that she finds herself populating. Granted,
and as stated, Claire looks so insatiably good in the film that she’s
almost hard to swallow as a deeply vulnerable and anxiety plagued woman
(an actress with less overt sex appeal would have been a wiser choice
here). When the film
doesn’t completely lose itself in the avenue of character dynamics it
becomes an even greater head-scratching debacle as the story careers
towards a howler of a climax that features the stalker battling out
against his prey in a...uh huh...burning barn that boils over to some
shockingly gory violence that seems like it belongs more in a torture porn
horror movie than here. And
don’t get me started on some of the other insidiously stupid plot
developments leading up to this point, like a laughable detail involving
Noah having blackmail photos and videos of his sexcapades with
Claire…all conveniently stored on his computer that’s even more
conveniently lacking password-protection.
THE BOY NEXT DOOR was directed by Rob Cohen, a million miles removed from past successes like the very first FAST AND FURIOUS film way, way back in 2001. His recent career has been riddled with one critically panned film after another, like STEALTH, ALEX CROSS and the worst of THE MUMMY series, TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR. He reaches all new levels of inhuman directorial incompetency with THE BOY NEXT DOOR, a duller-than-dull standard-order thriller that feebly gets by on nonsensical silliness, putrid acting, clichéd riddled story contrivances, and a genuine lack of genre novelty. Lopez is a good actress…when she wants to be (past successes like THE CELL and OUT OF SIGHT are proof positive of that), but she reaches a whole other echelon of desperation in wanting to star in and produce this breathlessly unoriginal schlockfest. Screening THE BOY NEXT DOOR made me sad. If you’re wondering whether or not Hollywood has irreparably screwed up the erotic potboiler genre to the aesthetic point of no return, then just endure this film.
It’ll more than convince
you of its unworthiness.