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Review: The Boy Next Door

It’s J.Lo’s world and we’re all just living in it. That’s the main takeaway from her latest flick, The Boy Next Door, a (I hesitate to use the word) thriller about a crush that turns to obsession.

Jennifer Lopez is Claire Peterson, a gorgeous 40-something high school English teacher attempting to navigate her way through a messy divorce. When 20-year-old Noah Sandborn (newcomer Ryan Guzman) moves in next door to help care for his sick uncle, Claire is instantly drawn to his good looks, charm, and tendency to quote classic literature. He becomes a frequent visitor, a role model for her teenage son Kevin, and takes on a husband-like role for Claire. Despite some mild flirtation, Noah comes off as a seemingly nice kid. Apparently not.

Before long, the boy manages to seduce Claire into a somewhat erotic but mostly uncomfortable (for the audience) one-night stand. Come morning she clearly regrets it, taking responsibility as the adult in the situation. With this, we begin to see the “other side” of Noah, as he forcefully confesses his love for her. The rest of the film throws Noah and Claire into increasingly creepy and dangerous stalker situations, most of which she shrugs off, chalking it up to a harmless crush. That is, until suddenly every character has a brush with death in a matter of minutes. Then the panic sets in.

The Boy Next Door has all the elements of a good thriller: passion, obsession, blackmail, but unfortunately the story feels off-balanced right from the opening scene, and it only goes downhill from there.

It’s a shame that the filmmakers seem to have chosen to invest a great deal of their budget in Jennifer Lopez’s wardrobe, hair, and make-up (which I must admit, is on point in every scene of the film). Perhaps what it should have been spent on were much-needed special effects that could have helped to make The Boy Next Door a more convincing thriller. Nonetheless: shout-out to the crowd-favourite moment, when Claire defends herself using an EpiPen as her weapon of choice. Straight in the eye. Classic.

Credit goes to Guzman for his amusing portrayal of both the charming boy next door and the sociopathic murderer. But the transition between the two sides of his character lacks depth and feels awkward. Noah ends up coming off as more of an annoyance than anything, getting in the way of other interesting but underdeveloped plotlines. For instance, the dynamics between Claire, her husband (John Corbett) and their son, as they attempt to mend their family could have been elaborated. Unfortunately, the flat characters and unexplored storylines will likely leave audiences feeling less than satisfied.

Arguably the most enjoyable part of the film was the abundance of attractive people gracing the screen at any given moment. It nearly compensated for the weak plotline, except that I found myself too distracted by the perfectly manicured characters to concentrate on what they were actually saying. Ryan Guzman clearly has Hollywood stud potential, but even he is overshadowed by the Goddess that is Jennifer Lopez. She almost floats across the screen, lounging casually on the couch in her lingerie (like we all do on a Monday night), with never so much as a hair out of place.

My advice? Stay home, rent Enough, and watch J.Lo kick some ass for real this time.

[star v=15]

Kate White

Kate White works in PR in Toronto. She has a weakness for classic film and loves a good meet-cute. If you let her pick the movie, it will be When Harry Met Sally, every time.