By Laurie Coker
No doubt, Jennifer Lopez is a beautiful woman – her look defies age and inspires others, but that does not mean she knows what makes good film. She is enjoyable to watch, loved her in Selina and have liked her in many other films, but her genre has gone stale. I couldn’t help but notice the similarity of her latest film Boy Next Door to some of her other films. Lopez, who produced the film, that I found an overly predictable, shallow, unimaginative exercise in sameness.
Lopez plays a recently separated, high school English teacher, Clare Peterson. She lives in a quiet neighborhood, with her asthmatic son, next door to an aging neighbor, whose nephew, Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman) moves in to help the old man recover from surgery. Noah befriends her son, Kevin (Ian Nelson) a bit of a weakling in many ways, and soon manages to bed Clare, who is reeling from a cheating husband (John Corbett), a remorseful man trying hard to work his way back home. One, passionate mistakes with Clare sends Noah, a troubled young man, over the edge and life goes very awry for Clare, her family, and her assistant principal friend (Kristin Chenoweth). Even as I write this, I cringe at the predictability.
Barbara Curry’s script offers NOTHING fresh to the thriller genre; in fact, it lacks imagination and substance. From the onset of the film each coming event is blatantly foreseeable and poorly executed. Lopez tries her hardest to form her character, but she comes across as too model-like and pretty (in every scene). Directors Neill Fearnley and Rob Cohen fail to provide the necessary thrills required for audiences seasoned in scare or suspense tactics. They might manage to frighten or put younger audiences (above 17 since it is justifiably R-rated) on edge, but the weak storyline will fail to please many.
Fearnley and Cohen throw in elements that might fit better in a horror film, which bugged me too. They toss out so many stock horror clichés I wondered if the original intent had been psychological thriller at all. Buff and sexy Guzman manages sinister and angry, but his character goes south far too quickly, and I don’t even want to get started on how old and Abercrombie-esque he looks. They put him at a 20-something high schooler – if that isn’t a hint at trouble, and he seems too good to be true, uh huh. Sometimes nude Noah and scantily dressed Lopez look gorgeous in every scene, no one uses curtains (much) and Noah can fracture another student’s skull, threaten and put his hands on an assistant principal and not once are the police called. Whaaaaaat? I am okay with breaches of reality, but come on! Poor tiny Chenoweth tries her best to put power and touch of kookiness behind her character as Clare’s best friend and the school’s AP. She even adds a touch of humor, but regardless, her path is transparent and her character ultimately ordinary. Corbett is completely wasted.
Sadly, the best thing about The Boy Next Door is the run time, at an hour, and a half and even that is too much of nothing new. Thus far, 2015 has given me at least two films for my top worst list and nothing to get excited about at all except perhaps Paddington Bear. January until Spring Break film offerings typically fail to impress. I wait patiently for better stuff, with also with trepidation, since Hollywood seems to churn out remixes and remakes of scripts, storylines and characters. Bring on the Indy films! JLo’s film earns an F from me.