The January doldrums continue: “The Boy”January 31, 2016
Well, it’s still January, and Hollywood is making damn well sure know it by continuing to make us suffer for the unpardonable crime of wanting to see a movie a month after the holiday season. The latest instrument of punishment is The Boy, which, while not a terrible movie, is still pretty bad. And that’s before it becomes outright, pants-crappingly stupid. Wanna hear about it? Oh yes you do…
So, in The Boy, Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead) plays Greta, a footloose American woman who has taken a job as a nanny for the Heelshires (Diana Hardcastle and Jim Norton), the type of English couple that exist only in movies made by people who’ve never known British people. An older couple, the Heelshires live in a rambling mansion atop a lonely moor or field or something that probably has Baskerville hounds running around eating Ms. Havisham’s cake and humping Sir Walther Raleigh’s leg and other stereotypically English stuff.
Except that the Heelshire’s son, Brahms is—surprise!—a porcelain doll. Well, Greta thinks this is nuts, of course, but agrees to be the nanny since she needs the moolah. She’s fled an abusive boyfriend in the US and needs some scratch to keep running. Besides, how hard can it be to take care of a porcelain doll?
Well, as any of the inhabitants of a RealDolls subreddit can tell you, crazy people can be pretty high maintenance. Greta has a list of chores she has to do every day for Brahms including reading to him in a loud voice, playing his favorite music, tucking him in to bed, and disposing of the dead rats in the traps outside the house. Jesus, my imaginary friends only needed to play Star Wars with me in the backyard. This Brahms kid is a real pain.
When the Heelshires leave for a vacation, Greta begins to notice some hinky stuff. Like Brahms moves when she’s not looking. There are other weird things, but really, that’s enough to send any rational person fleeing for a less gothic part of the country. Greta stays, though. She begins a flirtation with the local grocer (chain stores, not having made their way to the Old Country, I guess), a decent guy named Malcolm (Rupert Evans).
Mal believes Greta’s story about Brahms beyond the extent necessary to get in her pants, and tells her the true story of Brahms. Seems, he was once a real boy, but he died in a fire shortly after one of his little friends was murdered. If Brahms really is a spectral presence, he may not be a nice one.
Well, things go all Pete Tong when Cole (Ben Robson), Greta’s abusive ex shows up to bring her home (because unemployed construction workers totally spring for trans-Atlantic plane tickets just to get their girl back). Well, Brahms doesn’t take kindly to that, and promptly goes bitchcakes. Soon, Greta must confront the terrible secret of Brahms if she is to survive. And lemme tell you, the secret of Brahms is almost laughably stupid. I won’t ruin it, because, Jesus, what else is there to see in theaters right now? That movie where Leonardo DiCaprio gets raped by a bear?
The Boy is an aggressively bad movie—yes, it’s stupid, but it’s also so listless if it was a person someone would have slipped a mirror under its nose and rifled through its wallet. Cohan is a dynamic lead, and more than rises to the material (She’s had tons more challenging material in her five seasons in The Walking Dead), but the rest of the film just slumps along with hardly a scare or a moment of anything approaching suspense.
This is unsurprising, considering it was directed by William Brent Bell, the director that brought us The Devil Inside—one of the worst films in recent memory. He hasn’t gotten any better. There isn’t a genuine shot in the entire movie that has anything like any personality. This could have easily been dumped to VOD, and probably should have been.
None of these characters have any personality beyond “protagonist,” “friend,” “ex-boyfriend,” and issues like Greta’s legal status to work or her experience of a different culture are never addressed. This screenplay could have been banged out in a long afternoon watching Child’s Play movies and huffing paint. It probably was.
Too bad, since there’s a rich vein of genuine creepiness to be mined in this premise. I mentioned the RealDolls already, but the latest trend in Thailand is for childless couples to buy realistic dolls that they treat like real children, with airlines even selling them seats. But it takes a better movie than The Boy to explore this phenomena where it intersects with real life.
Anyway, that’s The Boy. I’ll say it again, January sucks.