The Boy Next Door – Film Review

That moment when you walk into your classroom and find revenge porn pegged up on the display strings. Oh, to walk a day in Jennifer Lopez’s stiletto heeled shoes.

She must have forgot to look at the script the day she signed on to play a middle aged high school literature teacher. Plus she has a teenage son in this film. When did JLo become old enough to have teenage children? I want my Made in Manhattan JLo back.

What The Boy Next Door lacks in logic, it makes up for in stupidity. There is never really a strong explanation given for boy next door Noah’s (Ryan Guzman) psychopathic stalker tendencies. Although I suppose an element of psychopathy is not having an explanation for your actions.

At face value Noah seems like a moral upstanding young chap, looking after his cancer-ridden uncle; taking JLo’s loser son Kevin (Ian Nelson) under his wing; and making clever references to Homer’s The Odyssey. But this is not good enough reason to sleep with a minor when you’re rebounding from your husband cheating on you. Likewise if you’re going to have an affair with an underage neighbour, make sure you’ve checked inside your antique clocks for hidden cameras that might be recording an incriminating sex tape.

Jennifer Lopez did not heed these sensible precautions and hence when she enters her classroom one fateful morning she finds a series of printed screenshots from the video, hanging from the roof of her classroom. Hanging from the strings where children’s artwork or short stories should be.

Lucky for her she enters the classroom before the students. In this regard the film has accurately portrayed sensible classroom management techniques. A teacher should always enter the room first to establish a position of authority within the room – plus they usually have the keys. In a further stroke of luck, she does not swing the door fully open, thus providing her with the opportunity to say “Give me one second”, shut the door discreetly and dash into the classroom to begin gasping and dramatically tearing down the black and white images, of her extra-marital relations, from the ceiling.

Of course there is a lot of paper to dispose of; and as most teachers know, students get restless if you leave them waiting even long enough for you to write the date on the whiteboard. It’s not long before they’ve called the school principal who begins banging on the door yelling “Mrs Peterson! Mrs Peterson, open this door”. Add to the stress the fact the laser jet printer is still pumping out further copies of the incriminating photo, all over the 1980s brown linoleum tiles.

In the time it takes the principal to find his own set of keys and unlock the door, JLo manages to clear in excess of two hundred A4 sheets of paper, which have been strewn across the room, and place them in the recycling bin. Here lies a rather large teaching faux pas, in that the recycling bin is never the most secure place. I’ve had students rifle through the bin before looking for pieces of work I may have thrown away; confiscated chewing gum I’ve placed in the bin; or torn pages of diaries other students have carelessly left behind. So it seems unwise to leave such a major quantity of photocopies depicting sex with a minor, in a disposal bin without even the simplest padlock.

Nevertheless, rationality, intelligence and common sense are not themes of this film.

Finally the students enter the class, and JLo is given a mild reprimand about punctuality from the principal.

This is merely one example of the many high-octane thrills this film has to offer. So for those of you who enjoy sitting on the edge of your seat watching stationery related psycho-suspense dramas, get yourself a copy of The Boy Next Door. For the rest of you, take a quiet moment to ponder what literary classics JLo would read if she actually was a teacher of classic literature.

The DUFF – Film Review

It feels like it could be a film from the late 90s. Surely every American (and for that matter non-American) teenager knows what a DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) is now days.

There are plenty of films they could make with more modern acronyms like BAE (before anyone else) – a teen friendship movie starring Maisie Williams, Shailene Woodley, Chloe Grace Moretz and a pair of used overalls; OTP (one true pairing) – a romantic comedy where Justin Bieber runs a zoo; TBT (throwback Thursday) – a body swap movie with Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, where no one notices the difference; or YOLO (you only live once) – a road trip where Jennifer Love Hewitt and Molly Ringwald travel the world doing extreme sports.

The DUFF feels like a massive attempt to modernise Mean Girls. It ends up being a mere template of the teen movie genre with all the usual archetypes including Ken Jeong as the mild mannered mentor, a bunch of stick thin young models as the school bullies and chiselled-jawed Robbie Amell as the school jock – despite the opening narration stating “for generations of high-schoolers you could only be a jock, a geek, a princess, a bully or a basket-case; but times have changed”. Apparently the producers didn’t get their own memo.

The only markers suggesting it is any different from older teen movies is the heavy handed use of handheld mobile devices, social media and Duckface – a phrase Allison Janney uses in this film, proving she is the most hip character in a film that already looks dated.

Mae Whitman (a wonderful comedic actress from Arrested Development, Scott Pilgrim Vs the World and television series Parenthood) stars in the title role of designated ugly fat friend. Not since America Ferrera was cast as Ugly Betty, has such an attractive young starlet been dressed in ill-fitting clothes and deemed to be not only fat and ugly, but completely devoid of social skills (oh, and of course the only asset is they are highly intelligent, because there’s a direct correlation between deformity and intellect).

Where are the real ugly fat people? The people whose self-esteem is left in tatters after twelve years of institutionalised education. The victims of school bullying who are haunted throughout their adult life by their childhood persecution. The people so fat their school uniform needs to be altered. The people whose stomach is continually spilling over their trouser bottoms. The person with a lazy eye. The people who have panic attacks talking to the opposite sex and never end up kissing anyone, let alone the school pin-up. The people who cry themselves to sleep. The person whose hair is full of split-ends. The people who come last in everything. The invisible people. Where are they? Why aren’t they the protagonists in these films?

If you want a film full of neat happy endings with a romanticised moral message about cyber-bullying then this is your film. It certainly has its moments and the highly predictable plot makes for good veg-out viewing, with a heart-felt message about being yourself. However, if you want the real fall-out of teenage years watch the documentary American Teen.