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Front Page - Friday, January 30, 2015

‘Boy Next Door’ no ‘Fatal Attraction’

The Critic's Corner

David Laprad

No one sets out to make a bad movie, but bad movies get made. That’s why God created January. January is the month into which the movie studios dump all of the crap they can’t afford to have taking up screens during the prime movie going months.

“The Boy Next Door” is the perfect January movie. It’s a badly written, ineptly made, highly contrived stalker flick starring Jennifer Lopez as a high school literature teacher and actor Ryan Guzman as her much younger next door neighbor and ill-advised lover. The movie is so ludicrous, it makes Lifetime movies of the week seem inspired. Actually, it makes the commercials that air during Lifetime movies of the week seem inspired.

The by-the-number plot: Lopez stars as Claire, a woman on the verge of divorce and a mother of one. When Noah’s parents die in an accident, he moves in next door with his ailing uncle. “I’m the only family he has,” the uncle wheezes out between short breaths. If you think Noah’s parents really did die in an accident, then put yourself on a strict diet of Lifetime Movie Network programming. That will help you to spot claptrap like “The Boy Next Door” from a mile away.

Before long, the charming and handsome Noah is fixing things around Claire’s house, taking her son under his wing, and smiling at her in the way that makes teenage girls squeal at the screen.

In a moment of weakness, Claire sleeps with Noah, then wakes up the next morning horrified. When she tries to leave, Noah goes straight from alluring dreamboat to full on “Fatal Attraction” bonkers. He doesn’t even get a few scenes to ease into being a raging sociopath; he goes right from bringing Claire coffee to boiling her pet rabbit. (If you didn’t get the “Fatal Attraction” reference when you read the last sentence, then rent the movie ASAP. You can’t discuss these kinds of films intelligently without a working knowledge of director Adrian Lyne’s minor masterpiece.)

“The Boy Next Door” offers so much fodder for ridicule, I don’t know where to begin. Maybe with the goofy dialogue. My favorite bit takes place at the kitchen sink, where Claire and Noah discover a mutual love of the classics, and recite passages of “The Iliad” to each other. “Ah, poetry,” Claire says, looking at him shyly. Even better is when she quotes other passages from Homer’s epic poem during their climactic struggle.

This is great stuff if you have a movie review column, but not so great if you spend 12 bucks, plus spring for popcorn and soda, to see it.

Perhaps you’re thinking the sex might be worth seeing. Relax. “The Boy Next Door” is no “Body Heat.” (If you haven’t seen that movie, then put yourself on a strict diet of ‘80s films. Seriously! I have a word limit; I can’t do all of the heavy lifting.) I’ve seen hotter Calvin Klein commercials, which you can watch on YouTube for free.

Besides, the movie isn’t as scandalous as it sounds. Noah might be in high school, but he’s actually almost 20 because he missed a year due to the death of his parents. Too bad the filmmakers didn’t go for the riskier storyline. I would have respected it at last a little if it had made some bolder choices.

Even if you can get past all of that, you still have to suffer the clunky screenwriting and direction. A good example would be the final scene, in which Noah sets fire to a barn. The flames stay a safe distance from all of the actors, even after several minutes of consuming the surrounding wood and hay.

The only good thing I can say about “The Boy Next Door” is that Lopez does some very convincing screaming.

I could continue to beat up on this dud, but I’ve think I’ve made my point. All I have left to say is, “Thank God it’s almost February.”

One star out of four. Rated R for violence, sexual content, nudity and language. David Laprad is the assistant editor of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact him at dlaprad@hamiltoncountyherald.com.