The Boy Next Door
2015, R, 91 min. Directed by Rob Cohen. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Ian Nelson, Kristin Chenoweth, John Corbett, Lexi Atkins, Hill Harper.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Jan. 23, 2015
Remember an incandescent Judy Garland standing in a moonlit window in the 1944 screen musical Meet Me in St. Louis, wistfully pining for the boy next door, whom she doubts knows she even exists? Seventy some-odd years later, Jennifer Lopez sort of riffs on that scene in the brazenly dumb MILF thriller The Boy Next Door, sneaking a peek one evening at the naked hottie neighbor (Guzman) half her age, a young man named Noah who’s obsessively aware of her existence, unlike Garland’s would-be beau. Her Claire, a vulnerable schoolteacher recently separated from a once-cheating husband (Corbett), is clearly intrigued by this sensitive and charming looker with a six-pack, who can quote Homer and swap out an alternator with equal ease. After their mutual attraction culminates in a steamy midnight fuck, however, Noah goes Fatal Attraction on her, revealing himself to be a psychopathic boy toy who faxes photos of their one-night stand to her classroom and tampers with the brakes on her estranged spouse’s car. (Animal lovers note: No bunnies die in this movie.) From the film’s introductory shot of Guzman – you first see his bulging bicep, followed by that ridiculously handsome mug – there’s no question who’s the sex object here, which appears to suit the fortysomething producer and star Lopez just fine. The objectification of the studly actor allows her to have it both ways. She can prove her continued sexual allure by banging a 19-year-old Adonis (no hint of statutory rape, please!) who thinks Claire is the most desirable woman on Earth, but yet allow her character to take the high ground and express the requisite moral regret as she tries to pretend it never happened. Nice work if you can get it.
While Lopez carries off the overdone damsel-in-distress schtick somewhat credibly, Guzman fails to step up to the trickier role of her seducer and stalker. His performance doesn’t calibrate Noah’s mood swings in a way that gets under your skin. He’s bratty rather than sinister or creepy. Most of the time, you wish that he’d stop screaming or shoving someone against the wall during one of his many psychotic episodes and just take off a piece of clothing. To be fair to both actors, Barbara Curry’s screenplay is short on character development and long on cheap thrills. No doubt, a genre film like this one can be trashy fun, but when it plays like so many junk movies before it, your interest wanes fairly quickly as the predictable plot points are satisfied, one by one. What the film needs is a subversive touch, something that doesn’t play it safe. Otherwise, The Boy Next Door is just another pretty face.