The months of January and sometimes February are known in the film industry as the dumping months. This is when you place the movies that you know aren’t particularly good, but hope that they will be the best of the worst, at least financially. So in this battle of the bads, we see some stiff competition trying to make it to the top of the trash heap. There is a three-way tie with Mortdecai, Strange Magic, and The Boy Next Door, with Jennifer Lopez very narrowly leading the pack, which still isn’t saying much.
Jennifer Lopez, as Claire, is a woman whose husband cheated on her, abandoned their son Kevin (Ian Nelson) and her for nine months, and returned to try to make amends. While he was gone, she wallowed and was devastated. If you’re expecting a strong, independent woman, you’ve come to the wrong film. A 20-year-old, Noah (Ryan Guzman), moves next door with his uncle and is apparently going to attend the same school Claire works at, and that Noah attends. One night, when Kevin and her separated husband Garrett (John Corbett) are out of town, Noah takes advantage of Claire’s vulnerability and lack of sobriety, and they sleep together. When Claire realizes her mistake, she tries to end things with Noah, but he doesn’t take no for an answer. He targets her husband, her job, and even her son. With the help of her best friend Vicky (Kristin Chenoweth), she tries to stop him and destroy the evidence he has on her.
This marks Jennifer Lopez’s (attempted) return to sexy, but in film. I have to admit, she is looking fantastic for a 45-year-old, and when you leave this movie, hopefully that’s all that you leave thinking about; not how how nonsensical and convoluted the story was, or how unempowered and overly helpless Lopez’s character was. Especially not how unbelievably laughable the notion of Guzman being a high school student is, especially since that’s what GEDs are for. Let’s not even mention how the part that was suppose to be the sexiest in the entire film is actually about a man taking advantage of a woman who has been drinking, and repeatedly says “No” to his advances while he is forcing himself on her as she is being held against a doorway. This one scene will likely be raunchier than anything in 50 Shades of Grey, but it is also a little more intense than it needed to be.
This film falls apart in the story by creating contradictory characters. The wife who values fidelity becomes unfaithful. The smart, manipulative boy next door, whose mommy issues would make Oedipus blush, is clever enough to hack an email and forge a signature, but perfectly catalogs evidence of his past crimes in folders on his laptop desktop. Let’s not forget the plucky comic relief/best friend (Kristin Chenoweth), who is vice principal of a school but is more than willing to help her friend conceal the fact that she slept with a student. This MIGHT be somewhat forgivable if the directing was any good. The film is shot predictably, with bad attempts at something more artistic, especially when it comes to lighting and filter choices. There was only one scene that I was completely drawn into, and that was the sex scene I mentioned before. After that, it was all one-note, with repeated, shirtless reminders that Guzman is sexually appealing. Seeing Jennifer Lopez sexually ravaged on screen might be a draw for most people, but after seeing her latest music video “Booty“, I think I’ve had my fill.
The Boy Next Door rises to the summit of the mountain of mediocre movies this week, but only because of JLo’s onscreen charisma. Even with Chenoweth’s humor and Guzman’s abs, this film can only be enjoyed if you set your sights solely on the eye candy aspect. Other than that, it’s a disjointed, frenetic series of unfortunate events that isn’t even fun to watch mockingly. Your time would be better spent fantasizing about one of the two onscreen leads than continuing to watch the film.
RATING: ★★(2/10 stars)