By Bill Wine
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – You will laugh yourself silly. Now if only it were a comedy.
The Boy Next Door is a hilariously awful suspense thriller in the Fatal Attraction mode that starts off by embracing the obligatory conventions of the genre and remains relatively respectable for perhaps fifteen minutes.
But it gets more ludicrous, more preposterous, and more unconvincing as it proceeds, and ends up as such a parody of itself, it plays out like a satirical Saturday Night Live sketch.
This is not a movie to make fun of: it does that on its own, never more so than in the laughably idiotic climactic sequence.
Although, one thing that must be said for the climax: at least it signals that the movie is OVER. No matter: the chief mandate for The Boy Next Door is to bring J-Lo back to the movie screen.
That, at least, it does.
Versatile entertainer Jennifer Lopez, who hasn’t really carried a movie since 2010’s mediocre The Back-Up Plan, stars as a woman who gets involved with a much younger guy.
She plays Claire Peterson, a recently separated and on-her-way-to-divorce high-school teacher who has a one-night stand with Noah Sandborn, played by Ryan Guzman, the charming and handsome teenaged grand-nephew of a next-door neighbor whom he’s taking care of.
Noah, who has recently befriended Claire’s son, has a certain initial charm, but it quickly curdles and, once spurned by Claire when she realizes that it’s been a monumental mistake, turns out to be one very obsessed and clearly sociopathic suitor who proceeds to stalk her, threaten her, and attempt to destroy her reputation.
Veteran director Rob Cohen (Alex Cross, The Fast and the Furious, Daylight, DragonHeart, Stealth, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, A Small Circle of Friends) has done better work previously. Of course, he couldn’t possibly have done worse.
The screenplay is by Barbara Curry, who used to be an assistant district attorney on the Major Crimes Unit in Los Angeles, so she certainly knows the terrain. But putting it into the narrative form, that’s the tricky part.
Kristin Chenoweth plays Claire’s assistant principal and friend, while John Corbett is Claire’s unfaithful ex-husband. But we hardly notice them: we’re too busy looking at, J-Lo and behold, the most glamorous high school teacher and oldest high school student in the history of the known universe.
Because of Lopez’s other pursuits and accomplishments, her screen career is sometimes underappreciated, but she’s done work ranging from respectable to impressive in a decent number of films, including Selena, Jack, Anaconda, Out of Sight, The Cell, Maid in Manhattan, Shall We Dance, Jersey Girl, Monster-in-Law, and The Wedding Planner.
And, yes, she took quite a bit of heat for all kinds of on-screen and off-screen reasons for the overly lambasted and astonishingly reviled Gigli.
But The Boy Next Door makes Gigli look like a masterwork.
In the lead, Lopez doesn’t exactly embarrass herself, but nothing about her – not her wardrobe, not her makeup, not her behavior, not her dialogue – makes us buy her as a teacher of “the classics.”
And we have to wonder about the producer – woman by the name of Jennifer Lopez – who chose this project as a showcase for her leading lady.
As for Guzman (probably best known for two of the five Step Up dance flicks, Step Up Revolution and Step Up All In), who is too old for his psycho role to begin with, he takes a role that’s ridiculous on the page and makes it much worse.
Guzman is in so far over his head showing us both the surface charm and the mental derangement and malevolence of his character, he comes across as a wannabe thespian who failed out of acting class.
Which makes him the least valuable and most offensive player on a team that has nothing but bottom-of-the-barrel production values.
So we’ll stalk 1 star out of 4. My advice: If The Boy Next Door is the movie next door, just walk on by.