The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Boy Next Door

There is only one conceivable explanation for the existence of The Boy Next Door: Jennifer Lopez said, “After Parker, What to Expect When You're Expecting and The Back-Up Plan, what can I do to drive the final nail into my film career's coffin?” That has to be it. There is no way anyone looked at this script and thought it was going to be a good movie. And if, by some chance, I am wrong about that...well, I don't even want to think about the implications. The Boy Next Door is a work of stunning ineptitude.

Lopez plays high school English teacher Claire Peterson. She has a teenage son, Kevin (Ian Nelson), and an estranged, philandering husband, Garrett (John Corbett), she can't decide whether to take back. One day, she meets Noah (Ryan Guzman), the handsome 19-year-old nephew of her next door neighbor. (Guzman is 27 and looks it, in the first of many nonsensical elements here.) Noah is attracted to Claire – she looks like Jennifer Lopez, after all – and one evening he manages to seduce her. After their night of hot, R-rated, but strangely light-on-nudity sex, Claire realizes that she has made a grave mistake. She tells Noah that they can no longer share physical intimacy. He promptly flips his lid and begins stalking her.

Yes, The Boy Next Door is yet another variation on Fatal Attraction. Because we haven't had enough of those. What's amazing is that the film, directed by Rob Cohen (Stealth), does absolutely nothing with it. Most movies have a series of important plot points, and they fill in the spaces between those points with character or plot development. That way, the story builds to a meaningful conclusion. The Boy Next Door can't be bothered with the spaces in-between; it's nothing but plot points strung together. For example, Noah seduces Claire in the first twenty minutes of the picture, so there's no real sense of why she consents to get naked with a kid half her age. Similarly, as soon as she tries to break things off, Noah abruptly becomes a full-fledged psychotic. It's as though she literally flips his Psycho Switch. This has the effect of making him thoroughly unfrightening, because we have no clue what's fueling his madness.

Barbara Curry's dunderheaded screenplay is also jam-packed with ridiculous moments. Noah is apparently some kind of jack-of-all-trades. In addition to being a skilled martial artist and expert marksman, he conveniently becomes a hacker when the plot needs him to infiltrate Claire's computer. When he wants to intimidate her in a school bathroom, he somehow manages to rig all the lights so that they flicker menacingly. Kid has a lot of time on his hands.

That's not all! At one point, Noah beats a student to a bloody pulp and no one calls the police or presses charges. In fact, in the very next scene, he's allowed to meet with the vice principal (Kristen Chenoweth in an embarrassingly dippy performance) alone in her office. The Boy Next Door even stoops to using some age-old cliches. You know what this movie has? You'd better sit down for this. A cat jump scare. That's right – it's 2015 and a movie is still using a cat jumping out to try to scare you! Worst – or maybe best for fans of unintentional hilarity – is the climactic showdown between Claire and Noah. I won't give anything away, except to say that I laughed at the preposterous way it plays out. No, actually I didn't laugh, I guffawed. Twice. If I see one comedy this year that's as funny as The Boy Next Door, it will be a magnificent year for comedy.

Fatal Attraction really set the bar for psychosexual thrillers. Adrian Lyne's 1986 classic has been ripped off many times over the years. At this stage of the game, unless a movie finds something new to add to that premise, the only way to approach it is by intelligently embracing trashiness. The Boy Next Door fails to do that. Instead of having fun with the concept and playing up the trashy elements, it takes itself seriously. The film really thinks it's going to give you chills. That creates a mess in which the actors are stuck giving unconvincing performances in a plot that hits predicable beats with unflagging frequency.

The Boy Next Door isn't sexy, it isn't suspenseful, and it certainly isn't any good. I wonder if I'll even remember much about the movie when I put it on my Worst of 2015 list in December.

( out of four)

The Boy Next Door is rated R for violence, sexual content/nudity and language. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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