Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: The Boy Next Door

It's difficult to believe, but we've reached the point where Jennifer Lopez is now a mom in her mid-forties. As such, it makes sense that Ms. Lopez's would seek out for roles that reflect this aspect of her life and she's found one in her new thriller The Boy Next Door.

By her own standards, Lopez gives a solid performance as Claire Peterson (a solid name, I might add). She's a high school English teacher who specializes in the Classics as well as a devoted mother who just can't seem to seal the deal with a good guy. Her son, Kevin, played by Ian Nelson, is your typical high school door mat who gets pushed around by cookie cutter bullies and is too shy to even be in the same hardware store as his crush. Claire and Kevin have been abandoned by Kevin's deadbeat, cheat of a father, portrayed by John Corbett, who spends the entirety of the film trying to make it up to his family. Enter Noah Sandborn.

Noah is a hunky, young heart-throb with a mysterious past who quickly cozies up to the Petersons. He befriends Kevin and before anyone can ask "Who is this guy?", Noah is repairing their garage, their car, and even Kevin's self-esteem, giving him the confidence to ask out the girl of his dreams and stand up to those high school jerks. Behind the scenes, Noah is putting the moves on Kevin's mom and Director Rob Cohen, of Alex Cross fame, wastes no time digging into the meat of Claire and Noah's new-found sexual tension.

On a recent episode of The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart mentioned how the audience at an early screening of the film clapped after Claire and Noah's steamy love scene. Lopez affirmed that that meant the audience was at that point emotionally invested in the characters and that they believed this was the point of no return for everyone involved. After seeing the film for myself, I am convinced that the audience in question must have been clapping purely because that scene was so steamy and not because they legitimately cared about these people.

As is the general complaint with these types of films, it's difficult to become emotionally invested in hollow shells of people who seem to lack basic common sense. As an example, the aforementioned love scene ensues as a result of Noah asking Claire to walk over to his house, in the rain, to show him how to correctly cook a chicken in the oven, which Claire must do in order to propel the plot forward. Ridiculous situations that are promoted through the sheer dim wits of dull characters, like these folks, are laughable but in fact could have worked had the filmmakers involved focused more on the camp of it all, which its trailer and even sections of the film suggests.

Instead, the focus of the film seems to be muddled between said camp and making a serious stalker thriller, which makes the few scares the film does have seem like a bad joke. In other words: this film is too campy to be taken seriously but does not commit enough to camp to be forgiven for its wavering.

What makes things worse is an ending that solidifies for the audience that not even the filmmakers care what happens to these characters.


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