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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Hubba, hubby, hubcap!

The Boy 
Next Door

Plot Overview

“Boy” reminds me of a line from a Larry Millett locked room mystery: Life, [a ‘sometime detective’], had been known to remark after a drink or two, was simply a spill God hadn't gotten around to cleaning up yet (298). In a quiet California suburb, lived a geezer Mr. Sand­born (Jack Wallace) who's about to get a bone marrow trans­plant. Staying with him is his 19-year-old grand­nephew, Noah Sandborn (27-yr-old Ryan Guzman) who is about to become a transfer senior at John Monroe High School. Teaching at the same school is their sizzling hot neighbor Claire Peter­son (Jennifer Lopez) who's a woman in trans­ition—she still wears her wedding band but she goes out on dates. Due to his senility, Mr. Sand­born refers to his coming trans­plant as a “transfer.” Because of his immaturity, Noah thinks one late night liaison with a woman in trans­ition is a trans­plant. Mean­while, Noah transfers his hatred for his deserting father, now deceased, to Claire's teenage son, Kevin (Ian Nelson) who had been bonding with his own father who wants to return (“Claire, please let me come home”) after a fling a year ago with a younger secretary to compensate for his trans­ition into old age.

Offering Claire liberal advice is her friend and the school's Vice Principal Vicky Lansing (Kristin Chenoweth) who's a walking talking disaster waiting to happen. When the principals finally meet at night in Vicky's secluded barn garage, we have merely to look at its furnishings to know this is not a safe rendezvous. There's an old wooden ladder whose rungs are pegged but not glued, some poly­ethyl­ene rope notoriously non-abrasion-proof, heavy machinery dangling over­head on chains and pulleys, and a liberal amount of kerosene in jugs. Add to the mix a militant hot­head who's carrying a hand­gun, and you know not all of them will leave alive, and the ones who do will like as not be carried out by the para­medics on a stretcher.

The one point of stability is Principal Edward Warren (Hill Harper), a black man in a white school, who consolidates his position by towing the PC line while remaining clue­less about his charges. If he only knew how the honkies behaved with each other, he might head back to the 'hood.


Larry Millett went on to describe the “spill” of life: This belief in the random workings of fate was wildly at odds with the tenets of the Catholic Church, in whose mysteries [the ‘some­time detective’] had been raised by the good Jesuits (298). The first tenet to consider is, (Heb. 13:4) “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whore­mongers and adulterers God will judge.” Aside from the life­long commit­ment of marriage, which Claire felt she could disregard (Vicky advised her, “Claire, you've got to get those divorce papers signed and move on”), she's still married to her husband Garrett Peterson (John Corbett) whom she makes sleep on the couch and won't accompany on his fishing trip with their son. She won't forgive him for his mid-life crisis indiscretion that he's sorry for, and then she succumbs to a like vulner­ability (“I was feeling vulner­able”) that she wants Noah to leave in the past. I'm sure the Jesuits would have some­thing to say about that. Sexually active Noah does some whoring with the school beauty and also his neighbor's wife, inviting the judgment of God to dangle over his head.

[The ‘sometime detective’] would think it best to go back to first causes, as it were. Such was the manner of St. Thomas Aquinas,, whose logical methods were drilled into me as a lad by the Jesuits (Millett 320). How was the lady dressed vis-à-vis (1Tim. 2:9-10)? “In like manner also, that women adorn them­selves in modest apparel, with shame­fast­ness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women pro­fes­sing godli­ness) with good works.” Claire was the best dressed woman in town: hair perfect, wardrobe sexy & coordinated, and made up like a movie star. She was golden. She had a glass of wine before going next door to help Noah cook, but she never helped the elderly Mr. Sand­born cook, or even inquired of his condition until she met Noah.

Far be it from me to pass judgment on Claire Peterson, but when Noah threatens to go public unless she continues her affair with him, and she retorts that she'll deny it, Noah asks her how it will look. I'll tell you what it looks like to me: Garrett had a job that required him to work out of town on occasion, and Claire had a discern­able New York accent, leading me to believe she was a big city girl he landed as a trophy wife—she refused to accompany him and their son on their fishing trip. It looks like she had second thoughts, that she might have done better, and was using Garrett's indiscretion as an occasion to scope out other possibilities for her­self. She dressed better than the towns­women, her house was kept up immaculately, she read more than most scholars—her house was festooned with book­shelves that were full—, and she spent quality time with her kid. Her only friend was the Vice Principal. And get this, Kevin's nick­name at school was “the whiz” in reference to a play­ground accident when he got “stung by a bee and lost control.” Claire also was subject to toilet humor when the kids thought of her as a tight-ass (“They call her ‘the crusher’.”) I'm thinking the towns­people resented her for thinking she was better than they were, so when she told Noah it would be his word against hers, and whom were they going to believe? she was already treading on shaky ground. When Noah turns out to have a photo­graphic record of their sexual encounter, she's in deep doo-doo.

The only thing that could save her (“Oh my God, he's threatened my life, my son, my job”) is if she pleads she was raped, and in fact Noah is physically strong and possesses a weapon, but he didn't force her. Claire, although she didn't accompany her husband and son on their fishing trip that weekend to help them cook their fish, she did go over to Noah's to help him cook a chicken—she'd been peeping in his bedroom window at night. And although she walked out on her date that night when he didn't let her hold her own thoughts, she didn't turn tail on Noah when he made sexual advances to her (“Kiss me Claire, just once.”) This is not going to look good for her.

Her trump card, of course, is she did say no to him, several times over (“Noah, this can't happen. It's wrong.”) On the other hand, when her earlier date had responded with, “Wow!” when he discovered she taught Classics, she was able to discern, contrary to Vicky's advice that he was so excited over her occupation, that he was regarding her as an anachronism, that kind of “Wow!” Similarly, when she told Noah, “No, no, no,” he correctly discerned that she was just putting up token resistance before submitting to what she wanted all along. How will this look? She went on to fully participate in and enjoy the sexual encounter. The towns­people aren't that PC to be fooled. The PC Principal if he keeps her on regard­less, will risk the ire of the savvy parents who had thought having a PC black Principal just the ticket. Thus the plot turns political correctness back in on itself.

This is neither propaganda nor a political movie nor a legal thriller per se, but it does tweak us by getting cute with political correctness.

Production Values

“The Boy Next Door” (2015) was directed by Rob Cohen. It was written by first-time screen­writer Barbara Curry. Curry was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in L.A. for ten years in the Major Violent Crimes Unit. She also taught criminal procedure at FBI Head­quarters in Quantico, Virginia. Her script reflects her practiced ability to tell a story before a jury concisely and in terms they're familiar with, here a thriller trope that winds up in 91 minutes. I would look for some legal acumen beneath the surface.

The movie stars Jennifer Lopez (J.Lo), Ryan Guzman, Kristin Chenoweth, Ian Nelson, and John Corbett. The one note­worthy per­for­mance is given by Kristin Chenoweth's character who's J.Lo's character's friend and colleague. Lopez is OK but not a stand­out. Corbett was good. Guzman was excellent, totally believable in all his moods. He's also a hunk.

MPAA rated it R for violence, sexual content/nudity and language. J.Lo did her own sex scene in it, but it was more a jumble of limbs than a lot of skin. She produced the picture, she stars in it, and it show­cases her personality, but it's the clever script that makes the movie.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I like a good thriller and wasn't expecting more, but this one surprised me with its clean development like I was reading a (shortened) novel. If you know what you like: J.Lo, thriller, legal mind, then go for it.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone. Overall product rating: Four and a half stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture cited was from the Authorized Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769, 2011. Software, print.

Millett, Larry. The Magic Bullet. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minn. Press, 2011. Print.