#68 | The Boy Next Door 2: Who Is Jennifer Lopez?
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Of all the erotic thrillers, of all the Jennifer Lopez movies, of all the movies, period. Why on earth are we discussing 2014’s The Boy Next Door this week, you might ask?
One of the perils of having younger friends is that, inevitably, certain cultural references won’t have stood the test of time. We all have those horrible moments when a reference to a beloved pop hit or popcorn movie from your childhood is met with a blank stare of non-recognition. Add in hosting a pop culture podcast, and this depressing reminder of the passage of time becomes less an occasional annoyance, more occupational hazard.
Still, I thought I’d inured myself to my co-host Harry’s blithe lack of knowledge of, say, the hits of Ace of Base, or why the original Jurassic Park was such a game-changer. But when an offhand reference to actress, singer and all-round celebrity phenomenon Jennifer Lopez was met with a quizzical ‘Who’, I could swear I felt the cold hand of the reaper touch my shoulder.
For anyone who grew up between 1997 and 2009, Jennifer Lopez epitomises the all-purpose Hollywood celebrity. Her records were hits, her movies played in packed multiplexes, her personal life was – and remains – tabloid catnip. So how could a reasonably pop culture savvy person – who, it should be noted, is 25 years old, not a newborn child, have totally bypassed her?
Given that we’re currently in the midst of a mini-season on musicians-turned-actors, it seemed like a good opportunity to provide a crash course in the J.Lo phenomena – but where to start? Her genuinely promising breakout in Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight? One of her crowd-pleasing early 00s romcoms like Maid in Manhattan or The Wedding Planner? The much-maligned ‘Bennifer’ vehicle Gigli?
All were considered. But ultimately, I decided to focus on a more recent effort – a relatively unsung but highly financially successful erotic thriller that proved that, while never a critical favourite, Jennifer Lopez still has an uncanny knack for sensing what her public wants to see from her. In this case, that was steamy sex, campy thrills and more soft focus lighting than the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and a Barbra Streisand movie combined…
The Boy Next Door is not a good movie. The dialogue is laughable, the plot is as derivative as it is totally implausible, the acting is, at best, variable. There’s a reason the film currently has a score of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is low even for a J.Lo movie. That being said, as indefensible as many elements of the film is, it is so much fun to watch. It’s not attempting to reinvent the wheel, but it knows exactly what it is, delivering entertaining jump scares, scenery-chewing performances and moving along at a pace so relentlessly brisk that it occasionally borders on baffling.
In other words, it’s prime popcorn fodder. Which, from her bandwagon-jumping pop hits to the majority of her movie roles, is perhaps the essence of the J.Lo brand. It may explain why she hasn’t built up much of a legacy in her 20+ years in the industry, but it also highlights why she’s still defiantly present on a pop cultural landscape that often chews women like her up and spits them out. Unabashed populism is no sin when it’s delivered in packages as entertaining as this.
Tune into this week’s episode using the links at the top of this blog to hear our extended run through the many, many highlights of this future classic of the guilty pleasure genre, including some drinking games we strongly encourage applying to your viewing experience, and of course the inevitable sequel ideas – this week featuring the inevitable straight-to-DVD cash-in, a spotlight on Kristen Chenoweth’s scene-stealing sassy best friend and Harry’s own somewhat surreal yet strangely plausible deconstruction of J.Lo’s celebrity. Sometimes, the best ideas come from the least likely source materials…
Let us know your thoughts on The Boy Next Door in the comments below, or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter. Next week, we’ll be bringing back one of our favourite guests for another hit movie from a celebrated celebrity survivor. Do you love it, we want to know. How can we tell? You’ll just have to tune in next week…