Thursday, January 22, 2015

“The Boy Next Door” – Jennifer Lopez’s best comedy in years.

What’s that you say? The Boy Next Door isn’t a comedy? Considering the audience and I laughed more at this movie than we did at Horrible Bosses 2 and Tammy combined, I have to disagree with you. We all went in expecting a stalker-thriller and ended up with comedy gold. Sure, it was 100% unintentional comedy, but if the goal was to entertain an audience, The Boy Next Door nailed that goal (pun intended). The funniest moment of the night happened after the movie was over when I stopped to share my thoughts with the screening folks. When asked what they thought of the movie, the folks just in front of me said they thought it was pretty good. I thought I had misheard them, but the screening folks confirmed and all I could do was laugh and accept it. When asked the same question, my response was that it was a delightfully stupid movie that one would watch with their friends as a joke. My expectations for this movie were set at approximately negative one thousand and, to my absolute delight, this movie ended up worse by a few extra zeroes.

(In case you are thinking of actually paying money to see this film, I’m going to SPOIL as much of it as I can, specifically to stop you. You can thank me later.)

The premise of the movie is perfectly reasonable – teacher sleeps with student, regrets it, student stalks teacher, people die. This is the premise of dozens, if not hundreds, of similar movies, but few of those movies were as unbelievable and stupidly written as The Boy Next Door. The setup is simple – Claire (Lopez) is a high school teacher with a sixteen year-old son, Kevin (Ian Nelson), and an estranged husband, Garrett (John Corbett), who cheated on her, but is trying to make amends. Hunky twenty year-old, Noah (Ryan Guzman), moves in next door and immediately starts befriending Kevin and Claire. The believability begins to break down when Noah informs Kevin that he moved there to finish school – high school. Incidentally, that was when the audience started laughing.

Since when do high schools allow twenty year-olds to attend classes? Isn’t that why G.E.D.’s were invented? Isn’t that the kind of thing that would cause every parent to lose their minds and demand that people be fired? Of course, that’s the least of the things about this high school that make it the worst high school ever, fake or real.

Anyway, Claire teaches classical literature and Noah just happens to have The Iliad memorized, which just happens to be what the upcoming semester will cover (if the writer of this film had been trying even a tiny bit, it would have been Oedipus Rex instead of The Iliad since Noah wants to kill Kevin’s father and sleep with Kevin’s mother). The two of them trade quotes in front of Kevin and Claire’s friend/vice principal, Vicki (Kristin Chenoweth), and Vicki voices what the audience is thinking – “this is just weird.” A couple of nights later the penultimate sex scene occurs and makes Vicki’s statement even more poignant.

I have to devote a whole paragraph to the sex scene because it’s really that weird (and also awkward). After returning home from a bad date, Claire gets a call from Noah for her to come over because he tried to cook a chicken in the microwave. As absurd as that sentence is to type, it’s made even more ridiculous by the fact that Noah was teaching Kevin how to replace the alternator in a car engine just a couple of days earlier. Despite that, she goes over and does what she can to fix Noah’s meat (pun intended and, no, I won’t stop). As she tries to leave, Noah starts kissing her, grabbing her, undressing her, and telling her how perfect they are. She repeatedly tells him no, but he keeps on in what can only be described as rape. Eventually, she gives in, but at no point during the rest of the scene does she ever appear to be consenting. It’s exactly as awkward as you think it is, in no small part because of his creepy whisperings and her obvious reluctance. I get that he’s supposed to be deranged, but nothing about this scene is convincing to the premise or the rest of the movie. Had she at least been drunk and into it, the rest of Noah’s character would have been far more believable, but definitely not as funny. When Claire wakes up the next morning, the film quits pretending that anything coherent was written in the screenplay and goes full-on stupid.

In one scene, Kevin is at his locker facing off with his bully when Noah comes flying in, drop-kicking the bully, punching him multiple times in the face, and smashing his head into the locker enough times to actually shatter the metal locker door. He even shoves Vicki to the ground when she tries to stop him. Moments later, Vicki is berating him in her office and informing the audience that he fractured the bully’s skull and broke several of his bones. Remember though, this is the worst high school ever, so of course exactly no cops show up to arrest the twenty year-old who assaulted the vice principal and almost killed a kid. On top of that, Vicki says that she went back and checked his records and discovered that he was kicked out of his last school for violent behavior. Let me get this straight – the vice principal didn’t bother to read the files of a twenty year-old transfer student. Again – HE’S TWENTY! Of course, this is the same high school that inexplicably has a gym solely dedicated to boxing, complete with ring and punching bags, so maybe kids beating the shit out of each other is actually homework and not a crime.

In another scene, Noah tries to make Claire angry by having sex with Allie (Lexi Atkins), the girl that Kevin takes to a school dance (and Noah beds her the same night as the dance, no less). Since Claire can see into Noah’s bedroom from her own bedroom, she (and we) gets to watch and we see all of Allie (and I do mean all). Oh, did I mention that Allie is a high school junior? Do you feel like a pedophile now? Have you realized yet that this scene literally depicts statutory rape? It doesn’t matter that Lexi Atkins, the actress, is twenty-one; the character Allie is seventeen at most. If you didn’t feel awkward before, you do now, because there’s a good chance that paying to see this movie constitutes paying for child porn. And, just in case you didn’t feel pervy enough, when the end credits start they reshow parts of this scene, including Atkins’ breasts.

But the best scene of the movie – read: the one that got the most laughs – was near the end when Claire goes to Vicki’s house after being lured there by the weakest fake message you will ever hear. When she gets there, she finds the door open and the power not working and people around me in the theater started yelling “call the cops!” I am not making that up; the audience crossed the line into Mystery Science Theater 3000. Claire pulls out her phone and….uses it as a flashlight. Un-freaking-believable.

While looking up names of the actors, I came across an interview with Guzman where he claims that we’re supposed to laugh at this movie and that the characters do and say dumb things on purpose. Do not believe this for a second. That is what people say when they see the finished product and realize it’s a pile of shit. I would believe him if the movie was satire, but satire requires commentary on a subject and this movie has no subject. The only thing Guzman says that is true is that characters say dumb things, none dumber than when Noah gives Claire an old copy of The Iliad and she says that it is a first edition. Um, no. It’s a good thing she teaches literature and not history given that The Iliad was written more than three thousand year ago and first edition would be on scrolls. Late night Cinemax porn has better writing, and we’re positive they aren’t trying at all.

The sad thing about this movie is that Lopez co-financed it in a desperate attempt to remain more relevant than “one of the judges on American Idol.” Given its extremely low $4 million dollar budget, it’s almost impossible that it will lose money, but it definitely won’t do anything positive for her movie career. The same woman who showed so much promise in movies like Selena and Out of Sight has stooped to letting some random guy from the later Step Up movies fondle her breasts. It would be sad if it wasn’t so funny.

Rating: I already told you, do not pay money for this movie. Wait until it comes out on a streaming service, invite your friends over to watch it, take shots every time Lopez looks like she forgot how to act, and see how many of you are still conscious by the time the awkward sex scene occurs.

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