Movie Review: ‘The Boy Next Door’

24 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Box Office: Jennifer Lopez Thriller ‘The Boy Next Door’ Opens with $500,000 Thursday.

The Boy Next Door is a hilariously awful suspense thriller in the Fatal Attraction mode that starts off by embracing the obligatory conventions of the genre and remains relatively respectable for perhaps fifteen minutes. It’s “50 Shades of J.” In the laughably trashy “The Boy Next Door,” Jennifer Lopez plays Claire Peterson, a divorced Los Angeles high-school literary classics teacher who is fond of sexy tops and movie-star makeup and hair. But it gets more ludicrous, more preposterous, and more unconvincing as it proceeds, and ends up as such a parody of itself, it plays out like a satirical Saturday Night Live sketch. While the studio has a large number of higher priced films (re: sequels and reboots) on its 2015 slate, it hasn’t forgotten what brought it success and this week it looks to pay off…again.

I put in the work like everyone else,” Lopez, 45, tells PEOPLE, adding that her regime includes circuit training, cardio and workouts by celeb trainer Tracy Anderson. “I haven’t done anything. Claire is seriously thinking about forgiving her ex-husband Garrett (a puffy-looking John Corbett) for cheating on her with some woman in San Francisco. J.Lo’s English teacher Claire quickly tumbles into bed with her new 19-year-old neighbor Noah (Ryan Guzman, who is not only a terrible actor but easily looks a decade older), while her teenage son is off on a camping trip with her estranged husband (John Corbett). Actually, the movie reminds me of the hit 1987 film, “Fatal Attraction,” starring Michael Douglas as the married Dan Gallagher and Glenn Close as stalker Alex Forrest who — after a one-night stand with Gallagher — comes back again and again to haunt him and his family.

Last weekend produced wins for rival studios Sony, Weinstein Company, Fox and of course Warner Brothers which saw its American Sniper break a number of records. Claire, of course, spends the rest of the film regretting this night of artfully posed and lit passion, as Noah instantly turns into a full-on psychopath when she rejects his repeated overtures for seconds. This new take on that very familiar story stars Jennifer Lopez as high school teacher Claire Peterson and Ryan Guzman as Noah, her handsome and very chiseled 19-year-old neighbor. Gales of laughter erupted at my screening when Claire walks into her classroom and discovers that Noah — who has been suspended from school by this point — has somehow gotten in and papered the room with hundreds of printouts of a compromising video frame grab, with more spewing from a fax machine. Warner Bros.’ Iraq War drama has held up well in weekday showings with $9.9 million on Tuesday, $7.6 million on Wednesday and $7.7 million on Thursday, lifting its U.S. total to $135.8 million. “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper, is expected to take in at least $40 million for the Friday-Sunday period.

Versatile entertainer Jennifer Lopez, who hasn’t really carried a movie since 2010’s mediocre The Back-Up Plan, stars as a woman who gets involved with a much younger guy. That would represent a 58% decline from last weekend’s $89.3 million but the solid weekday business indicates that this weekend’s total could wind up significantly higher. Claire and her best friend, the vice principal (Broadway’s Kristin Chenoweth, in her largest and most thankless screen role to date), plot a ridiculous scheme for Claire to sneak into Noah’s home. For example, without spoiling anything for moviegoers who plan to see the movie, who wouldn’t call the police once they felt their life were in danger?

Noah, who has recently befriended Claire’s son, has a certain initial charm, but it quickly curdles and, once spurned by Claire when she realizes that it’s been a monumental mistake, turns out to be one very obsessed and clearly sociopathic suitor who proceeds to stalk her, threaten her, and attempt to destroy her reputation. Here’s the thing: While we have all delighted in staring agape at Lopez over this last decade as she has aged in reverse right before our eyes, the truth is that she hasn’t had many recent career successes in that time—especially on the big screen. The entire enterprise reeks of soft-core porn and even goes there when a tipsy Claire reluctantly does the deed with the insistent new kid on the block.

Veteran director Rob Cohen (Alex Cross, The Fast and the Furious, Daylight, DragonHeart, Stealth, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, A Small Circle of Friends) has done better work previously. It’s been 15 years since she famously cemented her double-threat status as an actress and singer by being the first performer to have the number one film (The Wedding Planner) and album (J. Before you can say, bad seed or hide the rabbits, Noah is making cracks about “your mother’s cookies” to Kevin, Claire drops a freshly baked pie (the film is pastry crazy) and Noah shows up as a new student in Claire’s class, rhapsodizing about poetry. The Jennifer Lopez headlined thriller has the American Idol judge playing a teacher who has an affair with a (much younger) student (and neighbor) only to have him develop a fatal attraction to her when she tries to break it off.

Claire’s raunchy best friend Vicky (a likable, madcap Kristin Chenoweth), the school’s vice-principal, doesn’t want Claire to forgive her ex, thinks Noah’s “a strange kid” (“Can’t put my finger on it”) and gets into trouble with (oh, no) Noah when she objects to his fracturing the skull of another student. The screenplay is by Barbara Curry, who used to be an assistant district attorney on the Major Crimes Unit in Los Angeles, so she certainly knows the terrain. Those camera pans up and down Guzman’s martial arts-honed body are a fun role-reversal of the patriarchal norm, which typically sees young girls being casually objectified.

Lopez is a gifted comic performer as she demonstrated opposite Academy Award-winner Jane Fonda in “Monster-in-Law.” While this “Fatal Attraction” knockoff might have sounded good, it is frankly beneath her. Guzman, 27, is also pretty excellent at playing a (muscular) psycho – his turn from boy-with-a-crush to stalker in the latter half of the movie was scarily believable. Because of Lopez’s other pursuits and accomplishments, her screen career is sometimes underappreciated, but she’s done work ranging from respectable to impressive in a decent number of films, including Selena, Jack, Anaconda, Out of Sight, The Cell, Maid in Manhattan, Shall We Dance, Jersey Girl, Monster-in-Law, and The Wedding Planner. In the lead, Lopez doesn’t exactly embarrass herself, but nothing about her – not her wardrobe, not her makeup, not her behavior, not her dialogue – makes us buy her as a teacher of “the classics.” As for Guzman (probably best known for two of the five Step Up dance flicks, Step Up Revolution and Step Up All In), who is too old for his psycho role to begin with, he takes a role that’s ridiculous on the page and makes it much worse. Guzman is in so far over his head showing us both the surface charm and the mental derangement and malevolence of his character, he comes across as a wannabe thespian who failed out of acting class.

The film is out of its mind, replete with jokes about Jennifer Lopez’s “cookies,” a sex scene so long and confusingly choreographed that I became both aroused and intensely curious while watching it, a hyper-violent final act rivaling the most demented of Final Destination sequences, Kristin Chenoweth with a sassy pixie cut doling out wry one-liners, and a line-reading of the words “J.K. Just as there is value in soaking in the artistic merits of whatever three-hour historical drama Harvey Weinstein is assaulting award season with, there is value in having fun at the movies. (Hey, it’s called entertainment. The rise of franchises and brand names as the true stars of films certainly speaks to that, as does the depreciation in value of marquee talent like Will Smith, Tom Cruise, and the like. But the fact that Lopez, who can be so good when she lets loose in an acting performance, is the one starring in it is the film’s biggest selling point.

But the film flips the script by turning the dude into the sociopathic stalker—the deranged archetype who becomes hooked on a paramour after one quick tryst. But what’s the name for an older guy who’s after younger girls?” Lopez said. “I’m not after younger guys; if younger guys like me, that’s one thing, but guys who just go after younger women—they have no label! Just on board with Jennifer Lopez, in general, because as she’s proven time and again over the past few decades (it’s been that long!) she is a force of nature with an indomitable will and, clearly, no qualms about taking risks if it means her career could benefit from it.

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