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Film in review – “The Boy Next Door”

The_Boy_Next_Door_2015This has the feel and the ingredients of a made-for-television movie. It’s written by a first-time screenwriter. The interest depends on predictable plot twist, the performances are barely adequate, the action is telegraphed beforehand, and the good guys win in the end – though not without some struggle. The difference is that we have a real A-list star, Jennifer Lopez, though admittedly her film career has been a bit uneven (everything from the high of “Selena” to the low of “Gigli”). Since she is also the executive producer, it’s not difficult to imagine her instructions to the director: I want to look sexy all the time and I will even do sex scenes, but without actually showing anything; I will be an attractive and competent professional who is also a great mom; and I will endear myself to my audience by trying to forgive my philandering but remorseful estranged husband. Oh, and I will succumb to a moment of weakness, because I’m human, but the consequences won’t really be my fault.

Claire (Ms. Lopez) is a high school literature teacher. She loves the classics, but she’s not been successful in making her own teenage son, Kevin (Ian Nelson) love them as she does. But when the old guy next door suddenly introduces a young nephew moving in to help take care of him, the handsome Noah (Ryan Guzman) not only loves Homer’s “Iliad,” he also teaches Kevin how to fix a car engine and even helps Claire with the garage door. He’s polite, well-mannered and just seems too good to be true… which of course he is.

Yes, there are a few jump-out-and-startle moments and a bit of grisly personal violence at the end, not to mention the heavy-breathing episodes in the middle. The point is supposed to be the importance of families sticking together, but there are certainly more sublime ways to convey the same message. This one is a titillator: cheap thrills and cheesy characters. With so many Oscar-worthy performances currently available on the big screen, this one should be allowed to devolve to DVD and just go away quietly.

RONALD P. SALFEN is the parish associate at Woodhaven Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.

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