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Boy Next Door, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Less Than Enough"
1 stars

Ever since the previews for the new Jennifer Lopez thriller "The Boy Next Door" began running a couple of months ago, astute moviegoers have been anticipating a Bad Movie of mammoth proportions. Between the risible premise, laughable dialogue and the sight of a once-major movie star reduced to appearing in trash that they wouldn't have even considered doing a few years earlier--all of which managed to be conveyed within the confines of a two-minute trailer--here was a film that was already inspiring more laughs than most actual comedies of recent vintage long before it even hit theaters. Now that it has arrived, the question on the minds of most observers is not "Is it any good?"--the virtual impossibility of that scenario being a forgone conclusion--as much as it is "Is it as bad as it looks?" Well, yes and no. "Yes" because it is an awesomely idiotic would-be erotic thriller that is neither erotic nor thrilling and which contains more bad laughs than any film to come along since "Left Behind." "No" because for as trashy as it is, it too often seems to be pulling its punches instead of simply embracing its trashy premise wholeheartedly. There are movies out there where subtlety, restraint and quiet dignity can add immeasurably to the proceedings and believe me, "The Boy Next Door" is most certainly not one of them.

Lopez plays Claire Peterson, a high school English teacher specializing in the classics who has recently separated from her husband (John Corbett) following numerous bouts of infidelity on his part while on visit to the home office in San Francisco. Now she is lonely and vulnerable as she hangs out in the rambling house that she lives in with her dorky son Kevin (Ian Nelson) grading papers in sessions that, thanks to her immaculate choices in hair, makeup and lingerie, look more like a collision between the Victoria's Secret catalogue and "NEA Today." Things soon get a bit more exciting with the arrival of Noah (Ryan Guzman), a hunky 19-year-old who has come to help nurse his aging uncle, his only living relative, through a bone marrow transplant. Even though he is still in high school, Ryan is, it should be said, a piece of work. He is a mechanical genius, buff beyond belief, takes Kevin under his gristly wing and can quote large chunks of "The Iliad" from memory. The only thing keeping Ryan from being one of the guys in those old Dewar's Profile liquor ads is the fact that he is not yet of drinking age.

Armed with helpful household hints, flattery and a first edition copy of "The Iliad," Noah insinuates himself into the lives of Claire and Kevin and when the latter leaves for the weekend to go on a camping trip with dear old estranged dad, the combination of a dark and stormy night, a bad date, too much wine and Noah's insistent charms prove to be too much for Claire to resist and the two indulge in one of those nights of passion in which there are "no rules, no boundaries" and no displays of body parts that normally fall under the bathing suit area. The next morning, before setting off on one of the shortest walks of shame on record, Claire tells Noah that it was a mistake and can never happen again and he responds by instantly turning into an obsessive stalker who worms his way into her classroom, turns Kevin against his father and his attempts at reconciliation and drops double entendres that are so remarkably unsubtle (including the now-infamous line about how "I love your mother's cookies") that they barely qualify as single entendres. Eventually this proves to be just a tad too subtle and Noah goes full psycho as the story devolves into an orgy of car chases, gunplay, eye gougings and leaping cats before the grand finale in which--SPOILER ALERT--it twas booty killed the beast. (Face it--virtually every reviewer tasked with analyzing this film is going to use some variation of this joke and if they don't, they really should.)

On the surface, "The Boy Next Door" may sound like the ultimate in sleazy garbage--like a letter to "Penthouse Forum" sans both the narrative plausibility and the literary qualities--but of all the numerous problems on display, the biggest one of the bunch is the fact that it frankly isn't nearly sleazy enough for its own good. The annals of exploitation film history are rife with any number of titles in which sexy older women, oftentimes teachers, have carried on torrid affairs with teenage boys, as anyone with cable in the 1980s can attest, and those films cheerfully embraced their sordidness knowing full well that their target audience was almost exclusively other teenage boys wishing that they would get a chance to romp with the likes of Sylvia Kristel or Sybil Danning. "The Boy Next Door," on the other hand, is theoretically aimed towards a more exclusively female audience and as a result, it goes to ridiculous lengths to absolve its heroine from coming across in even the most mildly negative way by going through ridiculous contortions so that it can seem like Claire is nailing a teenage student while emphasizing that he is over 18 and not even in her class at the time of their assignation, which occurs while she is separated from her rotter of a husband, no less. The problem is that by going to such ridiculous lengths to paint her in the best possible light, Barbara Curry's screenplay defuses the tension to the point where it barely registers--based on the evidence, the worst she could be is a cougar with an eye for older looking younger men, which seems to defeat the entire purpose of being a cougar but never mind.

Although she has made some excellent movies in the past, such as "Blood and Wine" and "Out of Sight," I am not exactly telling tales out of school when I suggest that Jennifer Lopez has made more than her share of bad movies over the years. That said, "The Boy Next Door" is especially awful because not only is it a terrible movie on its own, it is also one of those projects that top-of-the-line sex symbols get enmeshed in after a while as a way of reminding the public that they are still hot as all get out. Make no mistake, Jennifer Lopez still has it but the film is so insistent in rubbing our noses into that fact that it becomes laughable after a while. There are countless scenes in which her character is reminded of how beautiful and sexy she is and while she demurs from these compliments, they are hard to take seriously because she is so glammed up in every scene that she always appears to have just arrived from her latest photo shoot. Perhaps fearing that this approach might be a tad subtle for viewers, the film also offers plenty of gratuitous close-ups of her hinder that practically scream (though presumably in a muffled voice) "Look. I still got it!" After a while, the whole thing begins to feel like that "Booty" video, minus the skin and the convincing character arc.

Speaking of skin, there is precious little of it on display here, at least of the Good Part variety. Normally this is not something that I would go out of my way to point out in a review but since "The Boy Next Door" is going out of its way to present itself as a sexy thriller, the absence of any nudity on the part of the lead actors (save for one or two quick butt shots of Guzman) seems like a bit of a cheat. Oh sure, a talented filmmaker can create incredibly erotic moments without showing explicit nudity but this is an area of the cinematic arts in which director Rob Cohen (whose credits include "The Fast and the Furious," "XXX" and "Stealth") is anything but a Viking. His sex scenes seem to be more concerned with paying heed to no-nudity contract clauses that in building sexual tension and the results look like parodies of perfume commercials. Meanwhile, a young actress named Lexi Atkins has been trucked in to supply the actual nudity as Kevin classmate crush in a subplot that is the closest that the film gets to actual discomfiting sleaze--naturally, no one knows how to resolve this particular development and so it is summarily abandoned once the goods have been supplied and "nudity" can be added to the MPAA guide explaining the "R" rating.

Unintentionally funny, dramatically clumsy (this is one of those films where an Epi-pen is introduced in the first act and you can be confident that it will indeed go off in the last), poorly acted (with Guzman coming across like the destitute man's Channing Tatum, which makes sense since he comes from the last couple "Step Up" sequels) and executed with all the verve of a lesser Lifetime movie (which is all that this pretty much is when you get right down to it), "The Boy Next Door" is pretty much an embarrassment to all involved(yes, even Rob Cohen). Unless you are the type of person who has long wondered what a dark and gritty feature-length version of the "Stacy's Mom" video might look like, there is no reason to waste your time or money on this when you can almost certainly find its equal or better on Cinemax after midnight on any given night of the week. As for Lopez, I cannot understand what impulse drove her to both star and produce in this film (and since it was reportedly made for only $4 million, it presumably wasn't the money unless she gets a big piece of the back end, no pun intended) but hopefully it has passed through her system and she can get back to making the kind of films that she does have the talent to appear in, if not the judgement to select them.

Quick question--exactly how old would a first edition of "The Iliad" be anyway?

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=26830&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/22/15 16:26:58
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User Comments

10/03/15 mr.mike By-the-numbers suspenser is an ok rental. 3 stars
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  23-Jan-2015 (R)
  DVD: 28-Apr-2015


  DVD: 28-Apr-2015

Directed by
  Rob Cohen

Written by
  Barbara Curry

  Jennifer Lopez
  Kristin Chenoweth
  Ryan Guzman
  John Corbett
  Adam Hicks
  Travis Schuldt

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