When I look at an upcoming schedule of movies, I can often predict which flicks will not be screened. Generally, one out of five movies won’t be screened for critics. There are several reasons for this. It could be a Tyler Perry movie, a schlocky horror flick or sometimes the studio just doesn’t want the bad advance word of mouth. Not only did I think that Jennifer Lopez’s newest movie, The Boy Next Door, wouldn’t be screened, but I thought that its forthcoming theatrical release was a typo. Based on the trailer, this movie was clearly meant to be released straight to video.
I was wrong about the screening. Out of the three new movies released this weekend, The Boy Next Door is the only one that was willing to face the music. Props for that. It did what Johnny Depp’s Mortdecai and George Lucas’s animated Strange Magic dared not do.
Jennifer Lopez plays Claire, a literature teacher at her son’s high school who is estranged from her unfaithful husband. A young man named Noah (Ryan Guzman), presumably 20, moves in next door (hence the title) and subtly makes his way into her life and eventually seduces her. She quickly realizes that her one night stand was a moment of weakness and doesn’t want it to threaten her job or family. Noah, on the other hand, refuses to accept her rejection and immediately starts to ruin her life and crush her resolve so that she’ll decide to stay with him.
If this feels like a movie you would have only seen in the early ’90s, you’d be correct. Those were the days of Deceived, Basic Instinct and the Hand that Rocks the Cradle. It was a good time for thrillers. But even those quality flicks were copied repeatedly until the genre basically died out. This type of movie is now seen as the type that would be made specifically for the Lifetime Channel.
We now live in a world where Gone Girl exists. Frankly, we’ve seen what can be done when a great screenplay, impressive actors and a director with vision rewrites the book on domestic thrillers.
Enter, The Boy Next Door, which cannot boast about its screenplay, actors or director.
I expected at least a few solid laughs and was not disappointed. The majority of the movie is made up of dull cliches (cat jumping, coincidental accidents and blackmail) and it cannot really stand on its own as a movie. It’s only in the final third, where things become so outlandish and really incredible. Incredible=so stupid that you have to laugh in order to not suffer from PTSD.
I don’t really care about ruining anything here. Sorry. Don’t worry about spoilers, you’re not going to see this movie. Even if you hate the majority of the movie (and you will), there will be a payoff that doesn’t fit at all and is glorious. Carrie stabs Noah with a steroid syringe….in the eye! As if that’s not enough, he rips out the needle, throwing it to the ground and lunges for her. She then drives her thumb into his bloody eye socket. You see white gushing gore that is more akin to a movie like Dawn of the Dead, than it is for a faux remake of Fatal Attraction. End spoilers. It’s an awesome moment that evoked complete laughter from the audience.
There is no reason for any crucial plot point. You never find out why Noah is crazy. He just is. You never find out if he sought out Claire to be his object of obsession. It just turns out that way. The plot unfolds without a twist or ounce of cleverness. These characters are clearly threatened by Noah, but they don’t show any recognition of it in the next scene. There must be something really special about the boy next door.
In five months you will see this in the $5 bin at Walmart hidden beneath copies of 2 Fast 2 Furious and the Red Dawn remake. I can only recommend this on a bad movie night. Even then, the price of bringing it to your home won’t even be worth it. I want to recommend it so badly, but can’t. In terms of a grade, it deserves a D. Yet, it gave me so many laughs that I just can’t hate it. Overall, you should let the domestic thriller genre stay in the past and skip this movie.