Could someone please suggest to Jennifer Lopez that she stick to singing and judging? Playing a high school honors English teacher, Claire Peterson, doesn't work for her, and I never believed her portrayal for one minute.


Claire's lyin', cheatin' husband, Garrett (John Corbett) wants her to take him back. Their son, Kevin (Ian Nelson), wants that to happen, too. But poor Claire is distraught, and doesn't believe that Garrett has changed.


Enter the "boy next door", hunky Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman), an older kid --- 19 --- who immediately ingratiates himself into Claire's and Kevin's lives. He's moved in with his sickly uncle, because his parents are both dead, and his uncle needs care.


I realize J. Lo is considered "hot" --- something I find questionable --- but, really, a 19-year-old? But this ridiculous script by Barbara Curry calls for a tryst, so after a steamy night of sex between Claire and Noah, she comes to her senses and attempts to distance herself from the beefcake.


Big mistake on her part --- turns out Noah's a bit of a psychopath, and begins tormenting poor Claire with photos, videos and threats. The assistant principal at the local high school, Vicky Lansing, played by Kristin Chenoweth, is Claire's best friend. She and Claire hatch a plan to retrieve the explicit photos, et al, from the house next door, only, as luck would have it, the plan backfires.


The really sad and annoying aspect of this poorly-conceived script by Curry is that we've seen it ALL before. There is literally nothing new here --- even the title has been used over and over. J. Lo isn't horribly awful --- I mean this is an Oscar nominee compared to "The Grey" from 2011 --- but when she utters the word "schmutz", one has to wonder what was going through director Rob Cohen's head?


Everyone in the cast is going through the motions. Corbett appears to be self-conscious and completely uncomfortable. He's given little of importance to do or say --- even at the climax of the film. Nelson is totally miscast as Kevin. Once, just once, could the son NOT

be the nerd who gets bullied?


Guzman gives his performance the good ol' college try, but try as he may, he simply cannot pull off the psychopath. He's better than average as the nice "boy next door", but when it comes time to show off his sinister traits, he fails miserably. He didn't frighten me at all --- laughable, almost.


Yes, this is January, and we shouldn't be surprised. Could the studios please stop making and dumping these lackluster films into this already-depressing month? Fortunately, there are other movies for viewing --- so choose one of those, instead.


Opinion: Don't Bother!





I've seen worse. Many people rail about Jennifer Lopez' acting ability, but

I've never thought she was that bad in front of the camera. Her latest film, "The Boy Next Door" is typical January fodder. It's a predictable thriller about a psychotic stalker, and the antihero who plays him is decent. Occasionally the dialogue suffers from banality, but overall, it's not an awful movie, despite what Jeanne writes.


Claire Peterson (Lopez) is separated from her husband, Garrett (John Corbett), and living with her son, Kevin (Ian Nelson). She teaches English classics at the local high school where Kevin is a junior. Her next door neighbor is a sickly elderly man (Jack Wallace) whose 19-year-old nephew Noah (Ryan Guzman) has moved in to care for him.


This is where the movie runs into trouble with a big dose of poor casting. Guzman is appropriately sleazy as the title creep, but he's too old to be fawned off as a high school senior. He's supposed to be only a year or two older than Kevin, but looks and acts considerably more mature, as if he's been out of college for several years. He's 27 in real life, so it's difficult to fathom what casting director Nancy Nayor was thinking.


Moving on, the film takes its foreseeable course with Noah the perfect gentleman, at first, fixing Claire's inoperative garage door, and just being a nice guy overall. He's obviously attracted to Claire, but it isn't until she sees him naked one night through their open windows --- not very original --- that he is emboldened. After a disastrous blind date for Claire set up by her best friend, followed by a glass or two of wine at home, she and Noah hook up for a night of sex. The next day she explains to Noah it was all a mistake. Of course, that turns out to be a bigger mistake, and now his obsession is rampant.


He plasters her classroom with incriminating photos of their tryst, a threat to everything she holds dear. But that's child's play compared to the climactic scenes, where all hell breaks loose. Unfortunately, there are several major flaws we've seen before in these "thrillers". One egregious flaw has the heroine (Claire) disabling the villain (Noah), then turning her back on him, so he can recover and attack again. Kristin Chenoweth doesn't get to sing --- she's the school's vice principal and Claire's closest friend --- but she does have a predictably nasty encounter with Noah.


First-time screenwriter Barbara Curry is a former Asst. D.A. in Los Angeles, having spent 10 years prosecuting violent crimes. Some of her material here is over-the-top, as the aforementioned flaws indicate. Director Rob Cohen gets the most out of his cast, and the veteran composer tandem of Nathan Barr and  Randy Edelman provide sufficiently eerie music.


J. Lo handles most of her lines with a natural ease, and I thought she successfully lost herself in her character. Claire's growing terror with the persistent Noah is believable. Meanwhile, Guzman's good looks and acting potential could land him roles in better films. We'll see.


Opinion: Mild Wait For DVD