Saturday, February 7, 2015


Jennifer Lopez isn’t a bad actress, but she is so miscast so miserably as a high school English teacher in “The Boy Next Door” (* OUT OF ****) that not even a seasoned Hollywood helmer like Rob Cohen can salvage this substandard stalker saga.  Although he has directed hits like “The Fast and the Furious” and “xXx” as well as above-average epics like “Daylight,” “Stealth,” and “Alex Cross,” Cohen appears appallingly out of his element with this formulaic fiasco.  Not only does the tawdry “The Boy Next Door” miscast Lopez, but also it makes Ryan Guzman, John Corbett, and Hill Harper look just as inapt.  Whatever Lopez and the other twelve producers on this picture admired about rookie writer Barbara Curry’s screenplay must have been either altered or didn’t survive the final cut.  Although she received an MFA in scriptwriting from UCLA, Curry should have kept her old day job.  She spent ten years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles where she toiled in the Major Violent Crimes Unit and handled federal cases involving murder-for-hire, prison murder, racketeering, arson, kidnapping, and bank robbery.  Reportedly, Curry taught criminal procedure at FBI Headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, and pushed for trial advocacy at the U.S Justice Department in Washington, D.C.  In time perhaps, Curry might brush up on her storytelling skills and become a  better writer.  “The Boy Next Door” is neither suspenseful nor surprising, unless you’ve never seen a single stalker movie.  Quite often, our sexy heroine, her oblivious colleagues, and her unsuspecting kin do some really stupid moves that make this movie appear more like a comedy than a drama.  The best thing about this predictable pabulum is that it clocks in at a minimal 91 minutes.  Meanwhile, “The Boy Next Door” has sold enough tickets to qualify as a “hit.”  Produced for a paltry $ 4 million, this mediocre crime melodrama has coined more than $20 million at the box office box, an amount sufficient to pay off its budget as well as its advertising.

Lopez plays English teacher Claire Peterson who teaches classic literature, specifically “The Odyssey” and “The Iliad,” at a California state public high school.  Our heroine looks far too incendiary for her own good.  Mind you, I’m not saying high school English teachers cannot look stunning, but Lopez strains credibility with some of her wardrobe.  As the action unfolds, Claire has separated from her philandering husband, Garrett Peterson (John Corbett of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”), who careens around in muscle cars and had an affair with his secretary.  Since you never get a glimpse of the other gal, you have to wonder how she compared with Claire.  Presumably, Garrett was probably taking advantage of his lowly employee because she was younger than Claire.  Meantime, Claire’s teenage son, Kevin (Ian Nelson of “The Hunger Games”), suffers from asthma and allergies when bullies aren’t badgering him.  The senior citizen next door to Claire (Jack Wallace of “Boogie Nights”) has just taken in his handsome, but orphaned, 19-year nephew, Noah Sandborn (an improbable 27-year old Ryan Guzman of “Step Up Revolution”), whose own dad died in a mysterious car crash.  Hint, hint! Claire encounters this charming Abercrombie & Fitch pin-up boy while she is wrestling with a cranky garage door.  One weekend, while Garrett and Kevin are away on a fishing trip, Claire accompanies her best friend and colleague, High School Vice Principal Vicky Lansing (Kristin Chenoweth of “Strange Magic”), on a blind date from Hell.  The well-meaning Vicky has set Claire up with a gruff anti-intellectual guy.  After she walks out on this loser, our distressed heroine finds herself face to face with charismatic Noah.  During a vulnerable moment, Claire abandons her morals as easily as Noah disposes of her lingerie.  Lopez displays little more than her shapely thighs while Guzman keeps her breasts discreetly covered with his groping paws.  The morning after when he awakens her with orange juice and coffee, Noah cannot imagine why Claire would be racked with recriminations.  Complicating matters even more, Noah is a transfer student who has enrolled in classes at the same high school where Claire teaches.  Lusting after her, Noah decides to pursue Claire, but she rebuffs his advances.  Eventually, Noah turns psychotic.  Initially, he hacks into Claire’s e-mail account and obtains permission from Principal Edward Warren (Hill Harper of CBS-TV’s “CSI: New York”) to enroll in her class with her apparent approval.  Similarly, Noah befriends Kevin, teaches him how to box, and tries to turn him against Garrett who wants desperately to patch up his marriage with Claire.  In a burst of rage, Noah pulverizes one of Kevin’s bullies, and Vicky expels Noah.  Meantime, Vicky uncovers some disturbing information about Noah, and she finds herself on the wrong end of his rage.  Ultimately, Noah horrifies Claire with news that he made a video of their sex act and threatens to expose her!  At this point, you’re liable to laugh your head hysterically off rather than gnaw your fingernails in dread.

Comparatively, “The Boy Next Door” reminded me of “Fatal Attraction,” “Single White Female,” “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” “Swimfan,” and “Basic Instinct.”  In a “Cosmopolitan” magazine interview, Curry said she drew inspiration from a real-life incident involving a high school teacher who had seduced one of her underage students.  Sadly, the relationship between Claire and Noah, especially their voyeur episodes, is so outrageous that you cannot take the drama seriously.  Cohen claims he wanted to craft the ultimate erotic thriller along the lines of those previously mentioned movies, but he embroiders clichés.  Some of the action scenes, particularly a runaway car episode, provide only a momentary relief from the Harlequin-like soap opera shenanigans.  Cohen generates a modicum of suspense in the tradition of “Rear Window” when Claire searches Noah’s man cave for the sex video.  Most of the time, however, you’ll felt insulted by the idiotic antics of these clueless cretins.  “The Boy Next Door” isn’t a third as exciting as last year’s “No Good Deed.”

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