“It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” is a series that focuses on movies which have a bad critical reputation, bombed in the box office, or serve as guilty pleasures.
This entry of “It Seemed Like a Good Idea At the Time” is a combination of two things this column has focused on in the past: erotic thrillers and Jennifer Lopez. Granted, you don’t see her naked if that’s what you are hoping for, but you do get overacting, moments of howling, unintended hilarity and moments that feels more scuzzy and gross. Thankfully, the former wins out.
I also brings two other things together: director Rob Cohen and producer Jason Blum. Cohen briefly seemed like he was going to do bigger things after directing the first entry in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, as well as the rather lame “James Bond, but more extreme” film “xXx”. Then came “Stealth”, which became one of the biggest box office failures of the last decade. This lead to “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Empire”, “Alex Cross” and now this. So needless to say, his career didn’t exactly pick up.
You can’t say that about Jason Blum, whose Blumhouse Productions studio produced “Whiplash” but is mostly known for its low budget but usually financially successful horror movies, most notably the “Insidious”, “Paranormal Activity” and “The Purge” franchises. If you ask me, the man is a genius from a financial standpoint. Sure, his movies aren’t always good (such as this one), but they are made for little money (again, such as this one) and usually make more than their budget back in the box office (such as…well, you get the point.) He knows what he’s doing and how to make money, and I can see this working for a long time.
Anyways, on to the plot. Lopez stars as Claire Peterson, who is separating from her cheating husband Garrett (John Corbett), all while her best friend and colleague Vicky (Kristen Chenoweth) urges her to divorce. Well, what do you know, a new teenager (well, guy playing a 19 year old who looks like he’s in his late 20’s) named Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves next door. Claire is immediately smitten with him, catching a glimpse of him naked in front of the mirror, getting a first edition copy of “The Iliad” from him (one of many moments of unintended comedy), and meeting him again after she has a bad date. This leads to sex with Noah, which she immediately regrets. Noah doesn’t take too kindly to her feelings about this, and quickly snaps.
Things then start to get worse for Claire. You see, Noah begins to not only befriend her son Kevin (Ian Nelson) but begins to attend her class. To make matters worse, Garrett wants to have another chance with Claire, which sends Noah closer to the deep end. After nearly killing a bully, hanging pictures of him and Claire, and forcing himself on her at a school dance, she makes it very clear that she wants nothing to do with him and she will use legal action if this continues. This becomes the straw that breaks the camels back.
It’s at this point that “The Boy Next Door” slowly descends into something more unpleasant. Up to this point, it’s been somewhere between your basic, less sexy version of the kinds of erotic thrillers that the likes of Shannon Tweed used to star in, only with moments that aren’t supposed to be funny. Then, maybe because it’s produced by Jason Blum, it inexplicably turns into a bloody horror movie with torture porn aesthetics and bloody violence. It just turns jarring, and it clashes with the trashy but strangely not unwatchable movie into a more uncomfortable one.
Up until then though, the thing is a Goddamn riot. It’s all clumsily directed (though at least better done than Cohen’s last feature “Alex Cross”) and done with all the subtlety of a soap opera. The acting isn’t anything special-Lopez isn’t great, but she’s at least decent and clearly trying to do something with the material, though Guzman goes completely over the top in his role. Even when the movie turns unnecessarily violent, he plays the guy to a point where he doesn’t even come off as a realistic psychopath, and instead becomes a grotesque parody of one.
Then there are moments like when Noah visits Claire’s house and delivers goofy double entendre. When someone says that it rained the night before, Noah responds with “Yeah, it sure got wet!” Then, when Noah is offered cookies, he say “Oh yeah, I love your mom’s cookies!” Watching this, I actually wondered if screenwriter Barbara Curry (who prior to this was a criminal attorney) knows how dumb the whole thing is. Then it hit me-she has to know. The over the top acting and bad one liners. The poor comic relief from Chenoweth. The leering attention to Guzman’s chiseled body. The whole thing is what would happen if someone made a Lifetime movie with a sense of self awareness and inexplicable bloody violence. Or at least that’s what I got out of it. For all I know, this is done with out a hint of irony.
So, is this worth watching? Well first off, I do think it’s worth repeating that this is not a good movie. At all. That being said, if you like comically over the top trash that may or may not be aware of it’s own stupidity, this might be up your alley. It’s all so ludicrous that it would be hard not to at least smirk at some of the proceedings.
Budget: $4 Million
Box Office Total: $50.2 Million