The Boy Next Door is one of those deliciously cheesy “thrillers” that the term “so bad it’s good” was invented for. In other words, it’s just the type of movie you switch to on a Sunday afternoon when The Real Housewives of Miami or whatever mindless crap you’re watching on the other channel is running through a commercial break.
Dubbed as Jennifer Lopez’s comeback vehicle (what is this, her third “comeback” now?), director Rob Cohen’s movie is about a high school English teacher named Claire (Lopez) who kicks her husband (John Corbett) out after he cheated on her with a secretary. As a friend commented during the screening I attended, “Who cheats on J.Lo?” Left alone in a nice house with dorky 17-year-old son Kevin (Ian Nelson) and no one to play with, Claire eyes instantly tractor beam in on Noah (Ryan Guzman), a young, hot, boy-toy with abs, biceps and buns of steel who moves in next door to live with his uncle Stan Lee (or at least that’s who he looked like). Noah is everything Claire wants (or at least thinks she wants) in a man: He gets along with her son, is an excellent handyman, solves her IT problems, and can quote Homer, Byron, Dylan and Shakespeare at a drop of a hat. He even glistens in the sun (no, really).
After a double date goes sour, Claire ditches her friend Vicky (Kristin Chenoweth), doubles down on the alcohol and finds herself knocking on Noah’s door. One thing leads to another and yep, they’re having torrid passionless sex on his couch. Regretting it the next morning, she tries to distance herself from the young man by giving him the ‘ol “It was a mistake” routine. Unfortunately, he’s already “in love” with her and won’t take no for an answer. Next thing she knows, he’s punching holes in walls, spray painting her name all over the school’s bathrooms, and moaning out about how much he loves her “cookies.” And that’s before things take a turn for the worse.
The Boy Next Door would be insufferable if it weren’t also so much guilty fun. There’s a case to be made for everyone involved with the film, aside from Lopez, being in on the joke but that would be too cruel. Then again, there’s something to be said about a movie that dots its clichés and crosses its tropes exactly when you expect it to. Even the laughs, like the aforementioned “cookie” scene, and a hilariously violent finale is perfectly timed. And that’s rare in a movie that’s supposed to be brain dead. Props then to Cohen, whose previous credits include the original The Fast and the Furious, xXx and Stealth, for keeping the action lively.
Admittedly, The Boy Next Door is trash but it’s the kind of trash that has the good sense to posit itself as such, unlike other vanity projects like Johnny Depp’s Transcendence, Jennifer Aniston’s Cake or Mark Wahlberg’s The Gambler. As for Lopez, she doesn’t quite embarrass herself here even though she’s woefully out of her depth playing an English teacher. Nevertheless, I’m holding out hope that her fourth “comeback” vehicle will be the charm.
THE BOY NEXT DOOR
Director: Rob Cohen
Screenwriter: Barbara Curry
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Ian Nelson, John Corbett, Kristin Chenoweth
Producer: Jason Blum, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, John Jacobs, Jennifer Lopez
Running time: 91 minutes
Companies: Universal Pictures
Rating: R for violence, sexual content/nudity and language