Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Boy Next Door: A Review (Review #706)


I went, most reluctantly, to The Boy Next Door.  I can say I'm glad I went.  The Boy Next Door is one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time.  I don't remember laughing so hard at a movie since perhaps The Hangover.  Difference being that with the latter, I was suppose to laugh.  The Boy Next Door, to its credit, is committed to its own trashy premise and bizarre turns, logic be damned.  It reminds us that J-Lo still has a hot body at age 45, so much so that not even the equally physically attractive fellow Latin Ryan Guzman at 27 can match her. 

It's a battle of the bodies, and that's what is the real draw of The Boy Next Door.  You don't go to see a real movie.  That's too complicated.  A real movie requires plot, acting, a rational narrative.  The Boy Next Door doesn't have much of that.  It does have Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman showing off their fantastic bodies, and that's pretty much all it needs.    

Claire Petersen (J-Lo) is shocked to discover her husband Garrett (John Corbett) is having an affair (I'd be shocked too.  I mean, J-Lo...).  Garrett leaves, which leaves Claire and their son Kevin (Ian Nelson) alone during the summer.  Claire's best friend and boss Vicky Lansing (Kristen Chenoweth) urges her to divorce, but Claire hesitates.  Enter Noah Sandborn (Guzman), grandnephew to Mr. Sandborn (Jack Wallace).  A recent orphan, he's staying with him while Mr. Sandborn is getting some kind of transplant (liver I think). 

As it so happens, Noah is going to go to Kevin's high school where Claire teaches 'the classics' like Homer (despite admitting to being almost twenty because you know, GED courses don't exist and a high school would naturally let a twenty year old enter as a senior.  Did I mention Noah looks almost 30?  Oh well, never mind).  Claire is impressed that someone so young can quote and love Homer the way she does.  She is also impressed by his hot body, which she observes from her window and he stands in his room naked.  He spies her, but seems to encourage this.

After a bad date set up by Vicky, a slightly tipsy Claire goes next door to help Noah with his chicken, and before you can say "cougar", Noah gets Claire to do the nasty in as close to pornographic a scene as one can have in an R-rated film.  Mind you, she did say "No", a few times, but when you look like Ryan Guzman...

Well, wouldn't you know it: she regrets this and he becomes obsessed after one night with J-Lo.  That's the way the ball bounces.  He hacks her e-mail to send a message to the principal (Hill Harper) to get into her class, and rather than deny it, she basically says, 'oh yes, silly me.  Forgot all about it'.  Why? Well, why not?

Garrett and Claire are close to mending their relationship, but Noah, who has befriended the friendless Kevin, turns their son against them.  Kevin even drops his favorite computer class to take boxing lessons, despite having some kind of ailment requiring shots.  Claire confronts Noah about his actions with Kevin, but does admit he did good in saving Kevin's life. 

Noah becomes more determined: he seduces Kevin's date for Fall Fling (what a bad title for what is essentially a cheap Homecoming/Prom) in full view of Claire.  He continues to manipulate Kevin, and even punches out viciously the bully whose been harassing Kevin.  This gets him expelled, but it apparently doesn't stop him from getting onto school property at least twice (where he graffities his sex act and prints out a photo of the two of them in bed.  It was convenient he had a hidden camera to film their tryst).  Claire discovers on Noah's computer the video as well as detailed plans for the braking system of automobiles, which by sheer coincidence matches the ones for Garrett's car, which was involved in a car accident.

It all comes to a dramatic conclusion when Noah lures everyone to Vicky's ranch house (who knew vice principals earned that much) where he will dispose of everyone save Claire.  He admits to killing his father and his whore in that car accident, and it all literally goes up in flames.

Reason 1 to watch
The Boy Next Door.

One figures that Lopez and company know in their hearts The Boy Next Door is pretty much trash.  The decision though is in deciding how to play with this trash.  Should they try to take this all seriously or should they try to admit that everyone about it is pretty much insane and inane and have fun with it? 

What The Boy Next Door decides is to let everyone figure it out for themselves, meaning that you have a weird hybrid where some are playing it for laughs, some are playing it straight, and some don't know what they're playing.

In the first category, you have Corbett, who appears fully aware that the whole thing is pretty ludicrous and is going to have fun with this.  In a 'too cool for school' performance, you can almost tell Corbett is thinking the whole thing a lark.  In the second category is Nelson, a young actor who is far better than anyone in this nonsense because he doesn't try to be camp in what should be a camp film.  He plays it as serious as possible, focusing more on the character than on the setup. 

In the final category, you have everyone else.  Chenoweth makes her Vicky into an almost cartoonish best friend (Noah's put-down of being an old, dried up tramp trying to be younger than she is seems sadly accurate given her almost screeching manner with Claire).

As a side note, Kevin's near-obsession with Noah and Claire's near-obsession with Claire aren't explored, but they would lend themselves to very interesting possibilities.

Reason Num. 2
In regards to our two stars, one wonders at the intelligence of their characters.  As each takes a more and more outlandish decision/action or doesn't do things that would be rational in our world, one wonders whether Barbara Curry's screenplay wanted them to be stupid.  Guzman shows that as an actor, he makes a very good dancer.  He seems to be aware that the lines are hilarious but also trying to play it as if he weren't trying to draw attention to it ("It got really wet here," he replies to the family, the double entendre clear).  It doesn't come off as serious or silly, but instead as someone trying too hard.

Well, J-Lo has a great body, but her performance shows that perhaps with the exception of Selena (her breakout role) and maybe something else, she can't convince anyone that she is a real actress.  In fairness to Lopez not even Meryl Streep could make Claire into a sensible character.  However, Lopez almost goes out of her way to try and make the ridiculous situations seem even more absurd despite the clear lack of logic.

Also, there are elements in The Boy Next Door that don't hold up (and that's saying a lot).  Claire discovers Noah's computer with all the information on it (the brake plans, the sex tape), but rather than just take the computer she decides, despite being warned by Vicky that Noah's coming, to stop and delete everything (which in her defense, is very nicely labeled for her convenience).  Oh, and she also didn't notice Mr. Sandborn has returned.  Ah, Mr. Sandborn, a character that pops in and out for no real reason save plot contrivances.

Also, the seduction of Kevin's date seems out of place and someone we never see or hear from again after yet another surprisingly explicit scene (and a chance for Guzman to showcase his awesome body).  Regarding Guzman's character, does anyone here stop to wonder why someone who looks almost thirty can go into a high school so easily?  Does anyone stop to wonder why in a gymnasium full of people, only Noah is around to help Kevin when he's having some sort of medical emergency?  Does anyone notice that Noah wears the same shirt and tie to school (having the curious effect of making him look like the cool teacher instead of a student)?


I think because director Rob Cohen doesn't realize he has an instant camp classic on his hands, he tries to make things really serious and dramatic, making things even more hilarious.  The concluding dramatic scene where J-Lo stabs Guzman in the eye with Kevin's needle, then later on puts her thumb in said eye, had me howling with laughter. I admit to chuckling through a few lines and scenes, but this was too much even for me to not react with the opposite reaction the film expects of me.

We know The Boy Next Door thinks it's really serious and deep by the closing song, Alex Clare's Whispering.  Never having heard the song, I wasn't sure if it was written for the film (it wasn't) but the song lends an extra layer of inadvertent comedy to the entire spectacle.  I left the theater laughing, repeating "whispering, whispering, whispering", finding the whole thing hilarious.  In fact, I laughed so hard after leaving that my stomach began to hurt and my eyes began watering.  "Whispering, whispering, whispering" just lent the already hilarious The Boy Next Door a coda of self-importance silliness.

Still, I'm an honest reviewer, and I did enjoy The Boy Next Door.  I enjoyed laughing at it. 


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