[Screen It]


(2014) (Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman) (R)

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Dramatic Thriller: A nearly divorced high school teacher must contend with the aftermath of having a lapse of better judgment and sleeping with her new, 19-year-old next-door neighbor.
Claire Peterson (JENNIFER LOPEZ) is a high school literature teacher who's quite close to divorcing her husband, Garrett (JOHN CORBETT), something Claire's best friend and vice principal, Vicky Lansing (KRISTIN CHENOWETH), urges her to do. But Claire has mixed feelings, especially since their 17-year-old son, Kevin (IAN NELSON), is still fond of his father.

She's happy when her new next door neighbor, recently orphaned 19-year-old Noah Sandborn (RYAN GUZMAN) -- who's arrived to take care of his sickly great uncle, Mr. Sandborn (JACK WALLACE) -- instantly befriends Kevin. Not only does he show him how to fix cars, but he also gets Kevin to talk to the classmate, Allie Callahan (LEXI ATKINS), he's smitten with, and is concerned about some classmate bullies, led by Jason Zimmer (ADAM HICKS), who torment Kevin.

Accordingly, Claire thinks Noah's an okay guy, especially with his good looks and appreciation of the classics of literature. One night, while Kevin is away, he manages to seduce Claire who gives in to the temptation and sleeps with him. But the next morning she's regretting that decision, and her sudden cold feet instantly angers Noah.

As she tries to act like nothing happened, he becomes fixated on her, and the more she resists and tries to tell him there's no future between them, the more obsessed and angry he becomes. From that point on, she must contend with him stalking her, the possibility of him spilling the beans about their tryst, and the potential of him doing something violent.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Back in 1987, director Adrian Lyne and screenwriter James Dearden unleashed a movie onto the masses that served as both a psychological thriller and a cautionary tale about infidelity. It, of course, was "Fatal Attraction," a well-made flick that, for the time, had an unlikely female villain (played by Glenn Close) and ended up becoming the must-see film of the year. In the end, it grossed more than $320 million worldwide (more than $660 million adjusted), garnered six Oscar nominations (including Best Picture), and likely prevented many a man from straying for years to come.

Since then, lots of stalker related films have come and gone, some better than others, and the rest easily forgotten. It's quite likely that the latest such flick -- this week's release of "The Boy Next Door" -- will fall into the latter category. In fact, if not for the presence of Jennifer Lopez in the lead part, this likely would have been a straight to video offering. Yes, it's that bad, and thus it's highly unlikely it will obtain the box office, award love or water color conversation status of its far better predecessor from nearly thirty years ago.

Working from a script by Barbara Curry, director Rob Cohen ("Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story," "The Fast and the Furious") is hoping to pull off a similar psychological thriller where Lopez stars as a high school literature teacher who ends up seduced by the title character (Ryan Guzman) who's recently arrived to care for his ailing great-uncle. The guy's good-looking, charming, and seems to be a good friend to Claire's teenage son (Ian Nelson) who doesn't have a lot of self-confidence, partially stemming from bullies, but also his parents' recent split due to his dad (John Corbett) having cheated on his mom.

Her best friend and boss (Kristin Chenoweth) urges her to dump the cheater and start dating again, but Claire hasn't completely written off a possible reconciliation. Despite that, their age difference, the lack of any involved alcohol (or other mind altering substance), and otherwise seeming to be a smart woman with a lot to lose should she participate in such a carnal act, she lets the young man seduce her. The next morning her regrets don't sit well with Noah who -- suddenly and inexplicably (based on all prior behavior) -- turns out to be a psychopath who doesn't want to let her go. To quote Scooby-Doo, "Ruh-roh, Raggy."

From that point on, things progressively unravel for our protagonist as she tries to deal with the increasingly unhinged villain, exacerbated by the fact that he might spill the beans at any moment about their tryst, thus certainly getting her fired and likely ruining her relationship with her son and any likelihood of getting back with her husband.

Obviously, there's potential in that setup, but I just didn't buy any of that or how things ultimately -- and predictably -- play out. The filmmakers simply don't make us believe that Claire would do such a dumb and impromptu thing, especially considering her desire to possibly get back with her husband or the creepy sleeping with my son's best friend issue.

Had she wanted to get revenge on her cheating husband, or had too much to drink or been drugged by the bad guy, then that would have been more believable, and actually would have made her a more sympathetic character for audiences to root for (at least regarding the affected mental state scenario). Then there's Noah's sudden behavioral change that arrives too abruptly and bluntly to come off as credible.

And don't get me started on why he isn't thrown into jail immediately following a brutal attack on a classmate (and shoving Chenoweth's vice principal character to the floor), or where his uncle disappears to for most of the film (presumably to get an organ transplant, but then he inexplicably shows up in a tense scene, just to be used as a jump scene catalyst). Those are just a few of the head-scratching "huh?" problems from which the film suffers, although they pale in comparison to the lack of any true let alone original suspense that the filmmakers manage to concoct.

The only question is who will kill the villain at the end and by what means. Will it be Claire who clocks him over the head with a copy of Homer's "The Odyssey?" Garrett who runs him over with his midlife crisis muscle car? Kevin who stabs him with his Epipen? Or maybe Chenoweth's character who breaks into song and splatters his brain like Slim Whitman in "Mars Attacks?" Ack-ack, indeed, but by the time that pivotal event mercifully arrives to put us out of our collective misery, no one will care.

At least the 2004 film "The Girl Next Door" did a decent job stealing from "Risky Business." "The Boy Next Door" does a horrible job channeling "Fatal Attraction" and deserves to replace its unfortunate bunny in the stove top pot. It rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed January 20, 2015 / Posted January 23, 2015

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