The Boy Next Door is one of those films where it’s so bad it’s good. Do you know what we mean? It is a movie that needs to be seen with a crowd. There are numerous laugh-out-loud moments and it all leads to a thrilling conclusion where the audience is yelling and cheering at the screen.
Jennifer Lopez is Claire Peterson, an almost-divorced mother raising a teenage son in the normally peaceful suburbs. Her husband (John Corbett) has cheated and it tore apart their once happy family. They’re working their way back, but when Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door to help his ailing uncle, Claire cannot keep her eyes, and eventually her hands, off of him.
Sure, he’s of age, but due to some trouble in his past, he is still in high school. And guess what? Claire is a high school teacher and this affair cannot continue and she insists it was a one-time mistake.
That does not sit well with Noah, who slowly but surely turns into one seriously creeped-out and lovelorn stalker. Kind of hard to avoid the guy, he’s next door!
Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, Alex Cross) directs and he knows he has a popcorn thriller that has cheesy lines that will have the audience chuckling. He also knows that he has two charismatic leads that can, if done with the right touch of schlock and soap opera level emotional power, make The Boy Next Door work.
What else is fascinating about the latest entry into the Jennifer Lopez filmography is that it never tries to be something that it is not. Everyone involved in this thing knows that this is a B-rate thrill ride that with the right touches of hubris and self aware humor, they could have a film that, yes, lands in the wasteland of January. But it does what most basic movies are supposed to do -- entertain.
Lopez does her best with a script that features a scene where Noah gives Claire a “first edition” of The Iliad and has her replying with all seriousness, “You shouldn’t have.” Well, we all know that he couldn’t have! A first edition Homer… this guy is sexy as all hell, but he can time travel back to ancient times to pick up Homer’s work?
That is talent.
And so is Guzman’s ability to play the part of the deranged neighbor, without ever falling into the cinematic land mines that other performers have done in stalker films (what are our top 19 stalker movies of all time?) that push them past fun farce and into campy crap. He is obsessed. He clearly is deranged. But, all the time Guzman plays Noah with a level headedness that when he does explode, it doesn’t feel like something we’ve seen a million times before.
See, our The Boy Next Door review can report that this flick is never serious. It’s impossible to take it seriously. And for the same reasons that audiences have lapped up four Transformers movies to the tune of billions of dollars, they too should enjoy the idea of Lopez being stalked by Guzman in a movie that has multiple moments where the cops would have been called and charges pressed. Yet, we don’t see a single police officer until literally the last shot of the film.
This isn’t even remotely close to reality. And isn’t that why sometimes we go to the movies?