Monday, January 26, 2015

The Boy Next Door

3/4

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, John Corbett, Ian Nelson, Kristen Chenoweth

Rated R for Violence, Sexual Content/Nudity and Language

"The Boy Next Door" is what a film critic calls a "guilty pleasure."  Meaning, that while the movie is extremely stupid and cheesy as hell, I'm recommending it because despite all my expectations, I enjoyed myself.

Claire Peterson (Lopez) is a Classics teacher at a local high school.  She recently split up with her husband Garrett (Corbett) after he cheated on her with his secretary, but much to the irritation of her best friend Vicky (Chenoweth), she's not yet ready to serve him with divorce papers.  So she and her teenage son Kevin (Nelson) live at home when one day they meet Noah Sandborn (Guzman), a hot young stud who is moving in next door to help his grandfather (Jack Wallace) out when he has a bone marrow transplant.  Noah hits it off with the bullied Kevin, and has an open invitation to have dinner at their house every night.

After a bad date that Vicky sets her up on, Claire goes over to hang with Noah.  That leads to steamy night of adult activity that she supremely regrets the next morning.  Noah, on the other hand, thinks it's true love.  When Claire begins to have second thoughts on divorcing Garrett, Noah takes it personally.

"The Boy Next Door" is extremely dumb.  Not only do the characters make the obligatory stupid mistakes (like not telling the police when things are getting really out of hand, or how someone covers for another person in a way that would never happen in reality), the film is constructed with little respect for the intelligence of the audience.  Like, is Noah's past as innocent as it seems?  Will his handiness with all things mechanical come into play?  Or what about Noah's severe allergies?  Will he have an attack at a time that's convenient for the plot?

The answers to these questions should be obvious to anyone familiar with this sort of a story.  What makes this film so entertaining is the way that director Rob Cohen, an action director whose past resume (including "The Fast and the Furious," "Stealth," "XxX," and that godawful third "Mummy" movie) screams "Michael Bay wannabe," chooses to present them.  Foreshadowing is crucial to a thriller, but it must be done with a deft touch; we have to remember it only in the back of our mind.  Cohen highlights them lights that could help land an airplane piloted by Mr. Magoo.

And yet, the performances of the two leads allow some genuine tension to develop.  The role of Claire Peterson is within J-Lo's limited range, and she forms a rapport with the audience.  At age 45, she still looks great, and while we don't get a look at her God-given gifts, the choreography allows us a very good idea (which, by design, makes it all the more sexy).  Her co-star, Ryan Guzman, is also a good actor (he gave a winning performance in "Step Up: Revolution").  Also like Lopez, he looks incredible (more so to a guy like me).  Unlike Lopez, he shows more, including his cute butt (which is ironic, since Lopez is famous for her rear end).

The film's sex scene, a must-have in the movie, is red-hot.  It's choreographed and filmed with maximum erotic charge.  Not since Leonardo DiCaprio drew Kate Winslet's portrait in "Titanic" has there been a scene this sexy.  And that's not an exaggeration!

While Lopez and Guzman can keep it afloat for a while, the film becomes too ridiculous to take seriously around the halfway mark.  That's okay, because Cohen and his cast seem to be in on the joke.  They allow the film to unfold with a perverse charm that makes it easy to laugh at.  Characters suffer from brain cramps and the script becomes so cornball that they have no choice but to overact.  There is also at least one plot hole; there may be more, but I was too busy laughing at the film to notice.

Should you see it?  Depends.  If you can take this movie on its own terms, then yes.  If you're looking for something with brains and real psychological tension, rent something else.  By pure happenstance, there is another movie that deals with erotic obsession, called "Fear," that is much more successful.  It was what this movie wanted to be (scary) because it was something that this movie wasn't (smart).  But as a total ridiculous cheesefest, it will play great to people who like that sort of thing.

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