Jennifer Lopez - Claire Peterson
Ryan Guzman - Noah Sandborn
John Corbett - Garrett Peterson
Ian Nelson - Kevin Peterson
Kristin Chenoweth - Vicky Lansing
Lexi Atkins - Allie Callahan
Hill Harper - Principal Edward Warren
Genre - Thriller/Horror
Running Time - 90 Minutes
Well well well - it's been a while since I've posted a written review on Full Moon Reviews. With personal issues distracting me and causing me to lower my motivation, it's been a struggle to type anything pertaining towards any movie these past few months. Hell, I've been struggling to watch movies period these days. But the itch has returned, and I plan on scratching it for your entertainment.
Unfortunately, my return coincides with the next WTF? Vault entry - this time for 2015's THE BOY NEXT DOOR, a movie that would have been on Lifetime some Saturday Night if it weren't for the starring role [and producing credit] of Jennifer Lopez. Love don't cost a thing, but my time and patience does. And while unintentionally entertaining for all the wrong reasons at times, THE BOY NEXT DOOR deserves a U-Haul to the Bargain Bin.
Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) is a beautiful high school English teacher who is going through a separation from her cheating husband (John Corbett) and dealing with an insecure teenage son (Ian Nelson). One day, 19-year-old Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door to take care of a sick relative. Young, smart, and buff - Noah captures Claire's attention enough for her to sleep with him one night after a bad blind date. However, Claire regrets sleeping with Noah, with doesn't set right with him. In fact, Noah becomes obsessed to the point of making Claire and her family's lives a living hell.
I have three words for THE BOY NEXT DOOR:
WHAT THE FUCK!?
I'm still sitting here wondering why I even watched this movie. Was it because I still find Jennifer Lopez incredibly hot? Was it because I actually think that line about loving Claire's "cookies" is terribly amusing? Or was it because I had a 90 minute gap to waste? Yeah, it was probably the last one. But seriously, THE BOY NEXT DOOR is a pretty blah experience that would have been a camp classic had it been released during the 1980s or 1990s. Instead, it's a predictable bore that makes you wish you were watching one of those Tori Spelling Lifetime flicks instead.
The biggest culprit has to do with the screenplay. In a lot of ways, it feels as if a middle-aged woman decided to write a May-December fantasy she was inspired by from the Investigation Discovery network. Lo and behold, it seems first-time screenwriter Barbara Curry is a 40-year-old woman who holds a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law and an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA. She even worked on federal cases in the Major Violent Crimes Units as an ADA for over 10 years. Why would a woman with these credentials want to attempt to write a sultry cougar-romance-gone-bad flick inspired by better movies? Why not be an analyst on those ID channel shows? Why not do some good work in helping victims in the criminal field? Besides, shouldn't she have written a better thriller if her background was on investigating and analyzing murder, kidnapping, robberies, and other crimes? Instead, THE BOY NEXT DOOR comes off as a lame version of any sex-thriller that has come before it. It's not as thrilling as FATAL ATTRACTION. It's not as sultry as BASIC INSTINCT. It's not even as campy as THE CRUSH or SWIMFAN. It's just a weak thriller that would have gone straight to video if it didn't star an A-lister as its lead. There's so much wrong with how this story is told that this review could be an essay if I wanted to discuss THE BOY NEXT DOOR in that much detail.
The characters in this film are all stupid and unlikeable. Everyone in this movie ought to know better and make smarter decisions, yet they don't for the story's convenience. Claire shouldn't sleep with a young man, especially when he goes to the school she teaches at. But his muscles distract her brain and her loins take over. And when Noah goes nuts on her, she doesn't call the cops or even attempt to stop him from spending time with her son. She even forgives him at one point, thinking he changed on a whim. And when she brings her best friend into her mess and puts her in danger, you find it hard to feel for a woman who put herself in this situation by sleeping with a dude she barely knew.
Speaking of Noah, his psychosis is a bit uneven. Yes, he's obsessed and does really bad things to Claire when she rejects him. But he also seems to care for her son, who looks up to Noah as a big brother. And when the truth is revealed about Noah, he turns on the kid like all the time we watched them interact didn't matter. It feels forced. It also feels forced that Noah, a 19-year-old, is obsessed with Homer and The Iliad - a story that Claire JUST HAPPENS to find as her favorite. He even buys her a First Edition copy of The Iliad, which looked to be in great shape since the story is over 3000 years old and the first edition is probably from 1581. Yeah, it's funny that this even exists in any movie in the internet age. Noah also seems to be a jack-of-all-trades. Not only is he knowledgeable in classic novels, but he can hack into computers, manipulate people to get his way, fix cars, and cut break lines [even though he needs a manual to do that, meaning he can create but can't destroy for some reason]. He's also smart enough to leave all his evidence on his laptop because that's what intelligent criminals do, you know. No wonder he's 19 and still in High School! It just makes the narrative even less convincing and your brain cells to slowly cry for help as they perish one by one.
The other characters are no better. Kevin is your typical teenager looking for a male role model. Unfortunately, he picks Noah who plays him like a violin against his parents. Garrett is the typical absentee father and husband who thought it was a smart idea to cheat on Jennifer Lopez. Idiot. And Vicky Lansing is the typical nosy best friend who pushes her bf on douchebags, while using all the school funding to get terrible plastic surgery on her face. Want to play sports after class, kiddos? Sorry, Vicky the Principal needs another collagen injection on her duck lips. Better luck next year.
Man, THE BOY NEXT DOOR would have been a Best Picture Oscar contender if a bomb dropped and killed everyone right after Noah banged his cougar - RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD style. Oh well.
Those expecting sultry sex scenes with nudity will severely be disappointed. Ms. Lopez apparently has a No-Nudity clause, so all we get is side boob and side butt. Honestly, I'm not even sure if it was her boob or butt, which makes it more frustrating. That green dress she wore at the Grammys that one year was more revealing than anything we see here. At least Ryan Guzman shows off his pecs and butt for those interested. Man, if Zalman King was still alive, THE BOY NEXT DOOR would be worth talking about under his eye. Tease.
Director Rob Cohen doesn't really add all that much to the terrible narrative through his direction. I know a lot of folks who give Cohen shit for his direction on other films. But I actually enjoy some of his other films, like THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, DRAGONHEART, and xXx. But those films were watchable because Cohen is good at filming action sequences and using special effects to tell stories that are style over substance. THE BOY NEXT DOOR isn't a film based around action. It's more of a narrative piece that needs to build tension and suspense to keep the audience engaged. And Cohen fails at that because it feels like a film built on cliches that have been done in other films like this. There's nothing wrong with that as long as the story, the visuals, or something at all changes the dynamic a bit. So the villain is a male this time instead of a female, big deal. The visuals don't help compensate for a bland screenplay, which is why Rob Cohen was the wrong choice for this vehicle. Is it a terrible looking film? No. But there's nothing remotely special about it, making it pretty visually forgettable.
The acting is so-so. Jennifer Lopez deserves better and should have known better [she did produce this film after all] than to star in a film like this. Lopez proved she can really act in films like SELENA, OUT OF SIGHT, THE CELL, and even in fluff like MAID IN MANHATTAN and THE WEDDING PLANNER. But she's so miscast as this naive 40-year-old English teacher, that you're never convinced by her performance. She still looks fantastic after all these years, but this role wasn't suited for her. But I'm sure the check was nice. Ryan Guzman is a bit better as Noah. While the character development was forced, I did think Guzman made for a decent psychopath who would be obsessed with Lopez. Plus, he's eye candy for the ladies and gay guys out there. So he wasn't all that bad and I'm sure this film will kickstart his career in a big way. John Corbett and Ian Nelson had nothing roles as Garrett and Kevin Peterson respectively, but they were decent in them. And I can't take Kristin Chenoweth seriously in anything. I'm not sure if it's her voice, or the fact that she needs to stop the plastic surgery that's not doing her any favors. But she did nothing for me as the best friend. And she did nothing for me as the comic relief.
THE FINAL HOWL