THE BOY NEXT DOOR Review

The Boy Next Door is ridiculous, outlandish and all-around pretty dumb. The good thing is, once we get to the third act of this ridiculousness we have a firm grip on whether or not the people behind the movie understand that as well. This is comforting on an intelligence level, but alarming in knowing this is what they'll make some serious profit off of. The Boy Next Door cost a minuscule $4 million to make and will easily recoup that with a ton of gravy on top in its first weekend because it is exactly the kind of movie its target audience wants to see on a cold January afternoon. Still, there is no way around the fact the movie is still pretty bad despite much of it seeming intentional and yet there is nothing from those first two acts to suggest its intentions. Instead, it initially seems director Rob Cohen and his cast were decidedly set on making a serious thriller. It is one of those films that should be a guilty pleasure, one that is fun to watch whenever you don't really feel like thinking, where you're envious of the world these people live in because it seems so picture perfect only to have it rocked by the drama and scandal you fed off of as a teenager. The Boy Next Door largely meets those qualifications, but isn't necessarily the one you would pick for the job when there are so many other, more competent satires of this type of film out there that will not only make you feel less stupid for wasting your time on them, but also have a little fun with their premise. It's almost as if Cohen tried not to have any fun or poke any jokes at the story for those first two acts before throwing his hands in the air and yelling, "to hell with it!" and putting all his eggs in the basket of his climax. By virtue of this being one of those movies we quickly label "so bad it's good" one feels inclined to forgive much of its shortcomings, but just because the finale inspires confidence that Cohen and his crew knew what we hoped they did all along doesn't make it a good movie. This is still a bad movie, one that almost doesn't feel fun enough to earn that aforementioned label, but it has its moments and I can't say I didn't laugh at all-because there is certainly some laughing to be had.

Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) enters into a torrid affair with a much younger man.
We first meet Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) as a newly separated woman looking to find some kind of solace in a life where she is near the end of raising her teenage son and unsure of whether or not she should file her divorce papers. Claire's neighbor, Mr. Sandborn (Jack Wallace), is getting ready for a bone marrow transplant whose young nephew, Noah (Ryan Guzman), has come to stay with him and help out. Noah quickly becomes good friends with Claire's son, Kevin (Ian Nelson), as well as Claire herself as he begins eating dinner with the neighboring mother and son on a regular basis. Still torn between actually filing for divorce and allowing her cheating ex-husband, Garrett (John Corbett), who is desperate to make amends back into her life Claire has a moment of weakness when Noah forces himself on her. In a heated moment of passion the dynamic between Claire and Noah takes a dramatic turn where Noah envisions his future drastically different whereas Claire simply wants to move on and forget anything ever happened. She attempts to keep this glaring regret to herself, but once Noah realizes she is keen on trying to forget their affair even happened things begin to get ugly. Game on! Just to be clear, Noah goes full-on, batshit crazy in threatening Claire if she doesn't come back to him with countless ways he could ruin her life and even a few acts that are rather major, but whose consequences are never addressed. There are moments designed to quickly move the story along from point A to point B where the dialogue outright addresses the caveats of where Noah seems to think this relationship would go given he's only a few years older than Claire's son as well as some kind of motivation for why Noah feels justified in his actions, but they exist solely to move the story along with Cohen doing nothing to flesh out the ridiculous and slightly disturbing responses these questions are met with. You can see where things are going the minute Claire and Noah meet eyes with questionable thoughts floating around in their naughty heads, which is fine, but that it is conveyed in such a standard process is what disappoints most.

It's hard to say with a straight face that any one thing was more disappointing than another about something like The Boy Next Door given you kind of go into something like this imagining it as one big disappointment with only small hopes it packs a few surprises. The staging of the initial set-up, the dialogue and the way in which Guzman's Noah seems to show up already knowing he has some kind of power over everyone because of his physical appearance is all rather horrible, but the cast at least seems game for what they're up to. Upon first seeing the trailers for the film it felt more depressing than anything given this is what it had finally come to for Jennifer Lopez. Lopez is an an actress who's not really an actor per se as she always tried to stretch herself as much as possible to make as much money as she could while having just enough talent in each field to pass as credible. That isn't to say I didn't enjoy the likes of The Wedding Planner or Maid in Manhattan as well as her willingness to try things like The Cell and Angel Eyes while still clinging to Out of Sight as her one, real stake in credibility-I don't mind her and find her more appealing than I initially imagined, but even for her, this seemed like a step down. With the involvement of Lopez though there inherently seemed no possibility of camp or a tongue-in-cheek mentality as she doesn't necessarily radiate a personality willing to make fun of herself. I'm still not sure she does as her performance here is serviceable, but more in line with Hill Harper's as her school principal than she is Guzman's or even her on-screen best friend, Kristin Chenoweth's (looking much older and sickly here). In his first major role in a non-Step Up movie, Guzman throws it all at the wall and uses what sticks. As Claire is just as unsuspecting of how deep Noah's feelings run, so does Lopez seem unaware of how far Guzman is willing to go in creating this slow descent into crazy campiness that instills faith at least he knows what he's going for and is laughing at the outlandishness of what he might have just done after the camera stops rolling. If only Cohen's tone met with Guzman's performance this might have been something truly hilarious and special. A gem of a send-up that is a joy to watch for how it plays with the cliches of the genre, but instead such opportunities just sit there.

Noah (Ryan Guzman) has an uncontrollable desire to be with Claire in The Boy Next Door.
Speaking of Cohen, this is the guy that rose to fame making the original The Fast and the Furious and went on to direct cheap thrillers like xXx that still satisfied yet has since descended into the likes of the third and forgotten Mummy movie and the apparently horrible Alex Cross movie with Tyler Perry a few years back I didn't even bother seeing. I was hesitant to see The Boy Next Door if not for the fact it already sounded like a cheap, erotic thriller, but because he was at the helm and I no longer trusted his directorial instincts. Why would he decide to apply his style, usually held for standard action flicks, to this subject matter worthy of a Lifetime movie if he wasn't desperate and simply looking for work? In the end, it may have been the attraction of trying to do something different while implicating his mark on it as the aforementioned third act contains a good bit of gore and action that is right up his comfort zone, but it also could have just been the paycheck. What helps here is the willingness to go with an R-rating allowing the extremes, the physicality of the scene the entire movie hinges on and the bluntness of the innuendo to flourish though it is with deep regret I tell you the best lines were spoiled in the trailer. There is really nothing more to say concerning the film. It is what it is and, I guess, is fine if you go in knowing what to expect. It could have been more were a director with some kind of vision or specific style hired to bring the idiotic (or brilliantly satirical, depending on how it's conveyed) script by first time screenwriter Barbara Curry to life, but Cohen plays it straight leading to an expected bomb being better than horrible, but not the surprise it could have been. As Curry's next project is titled The Perfect Guy and stars the likes of Morris Chestnut, Michael Ealy and Sanaa Lathan I'd expect more of the same, but given David M. Rosenthal (A Single Shot) is at the helm it could be something interesting. We'll see, but for now the target audience will no doubt enjoy this pre-cursor to next months Fifty Shades of Grey as they rush out with their friends to enjoy a Saturday matinee and discuss how good J.Lo looks for her age how attractive Guzman is and what they would have done under the same circumstances as they sip on their Starbucks.