The Boy Next Door (Universal Pictures, R)

film boys-next-door_smWhat I did not expect was for the film to be worse than I originally imagined.

 

 

film boys-next-door

I didn’t have high expectations for The Boy Next Door to start off with. Jennifer Lopez is one of those celebrities so engrained in me as a singer that I forget she acts, and when she does take on an acting role, I can never seem to separate her from her character, and am therefore constantly reminded that I’m watching a movie. The premise is that of your typical Lifetime movie: A sexual encounter turns out to be a mistake for one and the beginning of a crazy obsession for the other. Nonetheless, I was intrigued by the trailer and wanted to see where they would go with this story. What I did not expect was for the film to be worse than I originally imagined.

The film starts off very predictably: Claire (Lopez) is separated from her husband but can’t sign the divorce papers; Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door, shows off his muscles, and the two make eyes at each other until the big moment. This is to be expected, because this much is given away in the trailer. However, every scene following Claire’s “moment of weakness” is also predictable. This isn’t the type of film that keeps you guessing, letting you feel good when you are right. It’s a film that so obviously sets up the next moment that you don’t see a point in continuing.

None of the characters’ actions are believable. After sleeping with her neighbor (who is only a few years older than her son), Claire decides forgetting about it will make it go away. Noah punches a wall inches from Claire’s face when she tells him they made a mistake, yet this is no red flag to her. Claire’s son, Kevin (Ian Nelson, whom you may have briefly seen him in the arena in The Hunger Games), would be more convincing if he were 10 (rather than a teenager) because of how impressionable he is. One minute he loves his dad, and then, after a very short conversation with Noah, whom he’s known maybe a week, thinks his dad is the devil.

The Boy Next Door is classified as a thriller, but at no point during this film did I feel suspense, anticipation, or fear. On the contrary, I could not stop laughing. Guzman really tries to play the calculated psychopath who becomes unhinged, but his performance is so over the top it’s comical. At one point, Claire wields a knife to defend herself, and the music tells you to feel scared because she may be attacked at any moment…and yet it is so obvious that you’re supposed to think Noah is coming to kill her that you know he is not in the vicinity—so she’s holding a knife with this creepy music for no reason, and it becomes very funny.

I find this film most comparable to Steve Shill’s Obsessed, but where Obsessed had a decent story to combat the bad acting, The Boy Next Door suffers from terrible overacting with an underdeveloped story. Barbara Curry takes her first stab at writing with The Boy Next Door, and for a first attempt I will say she has potential—if she can develop characters more fully and add plot twists to her next screenplay. Kristin Chenoweth gives the best performance, probably because her character is there for comic relief, and it is nice to laugh at some intended comedic moments.

I do appreciate director Rob Cohen’s nods to The Fast and the Furious with some speeding cars and a pretty epic explosion. While perhaps out of place in this film, these moments provide nice camera work and are cool to see. | Samantha LaBat

film boys-next-door

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