Universal Pictures
Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten. Data-based on Rotten Tomatoes.
Grade:  C
Director:  Rob Cohen
Screenwriter:  Barbara Curry
Cast:  Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Ian Nelson, John Corbett, Kristin Chenoweth
Screened at:  AMC Lincoln Square, NYC, 1/21/15
Opens:  January 23, 2015

When Judy Garland was twenty-two years of age she starred in “Meet Me in St. Louis” which takes place during the 1904 world’s fair.  If you’re of a certain age or if you’re young and into musicals, you recall her singing Vincent Youman’s lyrics, “How can I ignore/ The boy next door/ I love him more than I can say…/And he doesn’t even glance my way.”   How innocent were the musicals of the 1940s!  And how innocent was Judy Garland’s little dance in front of a mirror, blouse and skirt filling every inch of her body, as she contemplates how to get noticed by the young man she adores.  Compare that to J-Lo’s examining her body in the skimpiest of underclothing as she luxuriates in the thought that in her own 40’s she can attract a young man of 19!  Times have changed.  In fact “The Boy Next Door,” directed by Rob Cohen, famous for “The Fast and the Furious,” is so trashy that you may just yearn to return to those glorious days of musical showbiz moviemaking that came out of the golden age of Broadway entertainment.

Not that trashy means that Cohen’s movie, budgeted at fifty-four million dollars, lacks entertainment value.  Barbara Curry’s dialogue can be expected to evoke guffaws from the audience for some unintentional humor, and audience members mostly below the age of thirty may cheer the hugely over-the-top climax which involves stabbings, shooting and burnings.  Have I given away anything?  Nope, because ten minutes into the movie, you’re way ahead of the characters in this oh-so-predictable psychological thriller.

Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) should have looked the other way or graded some of her advanced placement high-school student papers instead of looking at the handsome boy next door, Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman) had just moved in the nabe from San Bernardino to take care of his uncle, who is scheduled for a liver transplant.  This guy has everything.  First, in real life, the actor is twenty-seven and is made to pass for nineteen.  OK, that’s a stretch.  He’s obviously as much as a decade older than his classmates.  In short order, he’s fixing the Peterson car together with Kevin Peterson (Ian Nelson), who is Claire’s dorky son, advising him how to get a date with “the prettiest girl in school,” fixing the garage door, beating up the bullies who pick on the kid, and meeting Claire at a time of her vulnerability, as she is about to get a divorce from her cheatin’ husband (John Corbett).  Her sister (Kristin Chenoweth) strongly advises her to get those divorce papers signed

So when a guy has bulging biceps, the ability to quote Homer from memory (convenient when he’s trying to impress an English teacher dealing with the classics), and is a mentor for her son tells her that she’s sexy (as in another musical, “Whatcha gonna do when a fella gets flirty, starts to talk dirty”), Claire is just a gal who can’t say no.

Noah will turn out to be a guy like Ted Bundy, charming at first, then turning gradually psycho.  And the last thing a teacher wants to do is to fall for a psycho student if she values her job, her life, and her kid’s future.  One of the picture’s pleasures is the bad luck that passes the way of Claire’s sister, a woman who keeps bugging Claire to get rid of her husband, to start dating, and whose voice resembles that of fingernails crawling down a chalkboard.

For cheap thrills, predictability, and some unintentional laughs, go ahead and have a look.  Don’t forget: it’s January, and you’ll be getting what you expect to get in January.

Rated R.  91 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C-
Acting – C+
Technical – C+
Overall – C+


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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