Overview: Jennifer Lopez – playing someone who’s not supposed to be Jennifer Lopez – has a one night stand with her 19-year-old-but-looks-30-years-old next door neighbor and it somehow threatens to ruin her entire life. She also tries to convince audiences that she reads books. Universal Pictures; 2015; Rated R; 91 minutes.
It Must Be January: There’s enjoyably terrible and then there’s terribly terrible. Bonus points if you can guess right now where this is going. Jennifer Lopez stars as Claire Peterson, a perfectly lip glossed high school English classics teacher, the classics being Homer, Byron, and…Zeppelin, of course. Take a moment. Let this one really sink in. This is the least ridiculous thing you will be asked to believe. While dealing with her cheating, estranged husband (John Corbett) and navigating single momhood to her weird, whiny teenage son (Ian Nelson – whose performance can best be described as “I’m related to some bigwig from Universal Studios…now watch me do the talking!”), Claire is “seduced” by the next door neighbor “kid,” Noah (Ryan Guzman) who woos her with a “first edition” copy of The Iliad. (WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!) And by “seduced” I mean she’s drunk and says no and he kinda doesn’t let her leave; it’s as steamy as it sounds. And by “kid,” I mean he’s “almost 20” (and says so almost 20 times). (20? The trailer said he’s a high schooler?) And by “first edition” of a story composed in 725 B.C. and first printed 400 years ago…seriously, I have no idea what that means.
Plot? What is Plot?: Criminal lawyer turned screenwriter (this tells you everything you need to know about this film) Barbara Curry is still fuzzy on this one. The Boy Next Door is little more than a series of strung together plot points, most of which are utterly abandoned by the film’s abrupt end. It’s a sloppy, disjointed mess. Not one thing builds on the next, like the attempted rape scene, for instance. Noah tries to rape Claire in one scene, and in the very next scene, she’s voluntarily alone in his house discussing this whole scorned ex-lover thing as if she has no memory of what just happened. That’s the female protagonist Hollywood’s been waiting for.
To get on board with this attempted psychosexual thriller, we’re asked to suspend disbelief at every turn. (And good fucking luck to you on that one.) The film’s premise rests on Claire losing everything over this tryst…which brings me back to the 20-year-old senior in high school. The film quickly, conveniently explains this away with a mysterious backstory, setting up for one of the strangest, most contrived explanations for character motivation I’ve seen anywhere – ever.
The finale is laughable and every opportunity for misstep is eagerly taken.
Final Thoughts: To say this movie is on par with a Lifetime Movie would be insulting to the scores of average cable movies that blow this mess out of the water. As God-awful as it is, The Boy Next Door is unlikely to make too many Worst of 2015 lists. It simply won’t be remembered.