The Boy Next Door (Movie Review)

The Boy Next Door (Movie Review)
3 10

PLOT: High school teacher Claire Petersen, recently separated from her husband, grows infatuated with the young man who has just moved in next door with his grandfather. Unable to resist a night of passion with her new neighbor, Claire is horrified to learn he's grown quite obsessed with her, and will let nothing stand in the way of their being together.

REVIEW: THE BOY NEXT DOOR is an extremely silly movie, filled with plot implausibilities, moronic characters, imbecilic dialogue and just a plethora of bad decisions in general. And yet, it's not without its (guilty) pleasures; truth be told, I found myself having a moderate amount of fun during it. As you may have assumed based on the commercials, it carries with it some so-bad-it's-good entertainment value. That said, I wouldn't recommend buying a ticket unless you're about five beers deep and accompanied by some like-minded friends who enjoy laughing at silver screen incompetence.

Rob Cohen's movie falls into the "love affair with a psycho" subgenre, a well-worn one at this point. They were huge in the 90s - those tawdry B-movies attempting to mine the same mix of scares and sensuality of FATAL ATTRACTION - but they've mostly fallen out of favor on the big screen; now they're relegated to the Lifetime Network. It's an enjoyably trashy genre, and part of me was actually kind of looking forward to THE BOY NEXT DOOR. I know, it's shameful. And I won't deny that I had a stupid smile on my face throughout plenty of it, although it probably helped that I wasn't the only one in the theater laughing at it.

Jennifer Lopez stars as sexy 40-something mom and high-school teacher Claire Petersen, recovering from a break-up with her cheating bastard husband (John Corbett). She's not ready to forgive him, but she's not ready to call in divorce papers just yet, especially because he's always showing up with the "I made a mistake please forgive me" routine. Feeling vulnerable and confused, Claire finds her eyes drifting in the direction of... you guessed it, the boy next door Noah (Ryan Guzman), a hunky 20-year-old who just moved in with his grandfather (his parents died in a mysterious car crash; red flag right there). Noah is kind, complimentary, helpful around the house and big brotherly toward Claire's wimpy son (Ian Nelson). Plus, he sure looks manly when fixing a car in his undershirt or walking around his room naked.

Claire's unconscious adoration of Noah naturally leads to one night of unbound passion, a sequence Skinamax would be proud of. (You're wondering: does she show all the goods? No, but she gets pretty close.) The day after brings the requisite regret and shame on Claire's part and instant-attachment on Noah's; in fact, Noah goes into obsessive psychopath mode startlingly fast after Claire resists any further sexual contact. Before you know it, he's showing up everywhere, hacking Claire's computer, making vague threats, turning her own son against her; the works. The nutcase is going to make Claire his permanent cougar, no matter the cost.

THE BOY NEXT DOOR follows the predictable path of every movie of its type before it; it even calls to mind THE GUEST, last year's far (far) superior movie which also focused on a charming, initially-helpful stranger who turns out to have more than a few screws loose. Neither Cohen nor writer Barbara Curry (nor, for that matter, producer Jason Blum) have any new ideas or twists to throw into the mix; you know how every scene is going to play out the moment it begins. That includes the blackmail Noah lays on Claire, the trivial hopelessness Claire feels in the face of this amateur kook (she doesn't call the police until it's way too late), and the inevitable action-packed showdown in a cliched setting (a barn). Much of the dialogue is either stilted or silly, with the occasional LOL-worthy line thrown in to wake us up. The whole thing reeks of lazy ineptitude.

Sadly, these aren't the actors to elevate the material. Jennifer Lopez is not very convincing as either a teacher or a conflicted mom, and she frequently looks either bored or dismayed with what she has to work with. Curious, considering since she's a producer on the picture, but I guess there's only so much you can fake it. She does, however, still look utterly amazing, and both she and Cohen go out of their way to display her shapely curves early and often. And for the ladies worried this movie is only interested in objectifying Jenny from the Block, it's clear Ryan Guzman was hired almost exclusively for his beefcake status. There's nothing legitimately scary or compelling about Noah in the least, which is in keeping with the movie's complete lack of thrills or chills.

But it's cheesy junk and I sometimes enjoy cheesy junk, especially when it's as lunk-headed as this. THE BOY NEXT DOOR plays out in a straight-forward manner (save for a few double entendres Noah delivers), which makes it funnier than if it were more self-aware. Of course, I saw the junk for free; I probably wouldn't have been laughing so much if I had actually paid for it.



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