“I love your mother’s cookies.”
Anytime you can lead your piece with a quote like the one above, it has to be done. The Boy Next Door features Mrs. Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez), a high school literature teacher who has recently separated from her cheating husband Garrett (John Corbett). Though mutual feelings are certainty still harbored, with a push from her vice principal and friend Vicky (Kristen Chenoweth), Claire appears to be committed to eventually signing the divorce papers and taking care of her teen son Kevin (Ian Nelson) alone.
A woman still has needs though, and it is evident Claire is lonely. Enter Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman), a 20 year-old male who just moved in next door and preparing to go back to the local high school where Claire teaches to finish up his diploma. Attraction is there between the two, and no matter how right or wrong it is, get two people in a room alone who are into each other and chances are they will be into each other. However, what seemed to be a simple tryst and mistake soon transpires into a perilous situation that threatens the lives of everyone Claire cares about.
Play Misty for Me. Fatal Attraction. Fear. Swimfan. All of these movies share similar setup and plot; woman/man goes crazy on partner after intercourse was deemed a mistake. Yours truly cannot speak for Fear, but all of those movies managed to be at the least mildly entertaining, which is all that can be desired with these familiar psycho-stalker flicks. Mildly entertaining could not describe The Boy Next Door.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen tweets on TBND here and here. Honestly, it isn’t a shock that the movie is pathetic, but yours truly believed that there was major potential for this to be of the “so bad its good” variety. At least that is what the trailer showed with the cookies line and the wet line. While those humorous lines do exist still, that is really about it, and after they have been heard so many times the effect wears off. What is left is something that isn’t fun, generic as its title which is actually shared by three other movies/shorts!
Recent history hasn’t been kind to director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, xXx), attached to this one here. In the past, his films may not have been pillars in filmmaking, but they were enjoyable to a nice chunk of the population. This effort here is mostly nonexistent, filled with jump scares, lights-out pieces, standard thriller music, and the herky-jerky effect from time to time with the camera that plagued Alex Cross.
To top it all off, (slight SPOILER) the way the movie finishes leaves much to be desired. The main plot thread ends, but there are so many other minor threads that pop up and none are given any firm resolution by Cohen. Really, it is pretty laughable that a decision was made to go with it the way it is constructed. About the only positive he does bring is during a partially thrilling moment in the middle that feels like it belongs more in F&F than it does here. Perhaps Cohen should have stayed with the franchise…on second thought it would probably be dead by now if he still did.
He isn’t the only one at fault here, and he may not even be the biggest one at that. However familiar the premise may be, the success of these type of movies is usually highly dependent upon how effective the antagonist is at selling craziness and being a complete psycho. Ryan Guzman struggles to find that level. When these flicks are good or at the very least entertaining, those portraying the villains do a good job at still seeming normal but showing just a little early on to know that everything is not as it seems. So when they do fully turn, it is easier to buy into. Not until the rejection does Noah show his true cards. It literally is a night and day turn (literally), and as the movie goes on, the performance doesn’t get any better. At the end of the day, he just feels like a handsome guy trying his hardest to be a monster.
It does take two to tango though, whether it is a good dance or a bad one. The one known as J. Lo does little to bring anything to this either. Much like her counterpart, it is hard to see more than a beautiful person playing themselves on the screen. In no way is yours truly implying that these are strongly written characters, but stronger lead work could have easily elevated the character shortcomings present. Sadly, the weak work doesn’t stop there. Lopez’s son appears really unnatural in just about everything, and Chenoweth, supposed to serve as the comedic relief as a vice principal, misses badly 99 times out of 100 during her wise cracks. The only guy who seems equipped for the job at hand happened to be John Corbett as the estranged father, maybe because he plays one on TV.
Costing only four million to make makes the quality irrelevant for those in the studio. But it shouldn’t for everyone else. If looking for a one-nighter film gone bad, it is best to go back into the vault and find one than spend any time with The Boy Next Door.
Photo credits go to dailymail.co.uk, onecelebs.com, and movienewsplus.com.
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