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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Boy Next Door movie review: boys will be psychos

The Boy Next Door red light

Reaches beyond ordinary laughable movie nonsense to create a moment — only one, alas — that will reign in the annals of cheesy cinematic history.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Isn’t it amazing how guys in movies get to have decades-younger wives and girlfriends and it’s not a problem, not even a thing to be mentioned, but let a woman get in on the fun and enjoy some sexytime with a hot-bodied barely overage youngster, and suddenly it’s instant nightmare? That’s what happens to high-school lit teacher Claire (Jennifer Lopez: What to Expect When You’re Expecting) when Noah (Ryan Guzman: Step Up All In) moves in next door. The film goes to great lengths to reassure us that Noah and his abs are 19, almost 20 years old, but that he needs to finish up high school after his parents’ deaths interrupted his schooling. So he’s definitely not jailbait for Claire… but he’s still in a situation where he can menace her at work as well as at home after their hot, hot tryst one weekend when her ex husband (John Corbett: Ramona and Beezus) took their son (Ian Nelson: The Judge) on a camping trip. “Strange kid,” Claire’s best friend (Kristen Chenoweth: Rio 2) notes; “I can’t put my finger on it.” It’s that he’s preternaturally suave and confident for a teenager, and that ain’t cuz he is secretly 35. It’s that he’s a cartoon villain who goes from zero to psycho in 60 seconds, after Claire, in a moment of hormone-free reason, tells him that their night together was a one-off, never to happen again. The ridiculous script — by first-timer Barbara Curry — concocts absurd scenarios in which Noah can torment Claire for refusing to continue having sex with them, and then sets up Claire as an amateur detective hunting down clues that will help her figure out precisely what sort of nutjob he is; good thing cops are willing to show any ol’ civilian around an evidence impound yard, and good thing Noah leaves all his murderous research in clearly and accurately labeled folders on his computer. Kudos to Curry and director Rob Cohen (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor), though, for reaching beyond the ordinary sort of laughable movie nonsense and creating a moment that will reign in the annals of cheesy cinematic history: the one in which Noah gives Claire a gift, something he found at a garage sale for “a buck.” It’s a book. A “first edition.” Of the Iliad. The moment couldn’t be any more deliciously terrible if the byline on the book’s cover credited it to Homer Simpson.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of The Boy Next Door for its representation of girls and women.

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The Boy Next Door (2015)
US/Can release: Jan 23 2015
UK/Ire release: Feb 27 2015

MPAA: rated R for violence, sexual content/nudity and language
BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence, threat, very strong language)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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