There is a moment in “The Boy Next Door” (albeit a brief one) where I asked myself “Could this actually be a good movie?” It’s early in the film and despite its visible cracks the movie appears to be laying some fairly entertaining groundwork. But it didn’t take long before I had the answer to my question. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was another silly, cliche-ridden, Lifetime caliber effort with seemingly no unique identity of its own.
Now some may disagree, but Jennifer Lopez is not a bad actress. You certainly wouldn’t know that by many of her movie choices. Why she attached herself to this film is beyond me. In it she plays Claire Peterson, a high school teacher who has recently separated from her cheating husband (John Corbett). She meets a teenager (going on 30) Noah Sandborn played by Ryan Guzman. He has just moved in next door with his disabled uncle following the death of his parents. Noah looks fresh out of a GQ shoot, flashes a million dollar smile, and knows how to fix a garage door opener. What a winning combination!
Noah begins impressing Claire by befriending her 16-year old son Kevin (Ian Nelson). Noah helps Kevin talk to the ‘prettiest girl in school’ and deal with some obnoxious bullies (doesn’t that sound familiar). He teaches Kevin how to box and change out an alternator in a truck. How can Claire not like this guy? Of course we know where this is heading from the very first time they meet. Director Rob Cohen doesn’t allow us to wonder. Instead he bombards us with awkward smiles, googly eye contact, and glaringly obvious perspective shots where his camera sits and lustily gazes. There isn’t an ounce of mystery.
The obvious happens and the two hook up. Afterwards Claire immediately knows she has made a mistake. The film portrays it as an act of vulnerability, but that’s really hard to buy into. The movie does a poor job of selling us a vulnerable Claire. After all, she is cutting eyes at this guy every time he walks into her house. Regardless, Claire tells Noah it was a mistake and (in an equally predictable turn) Noah suddenly turns from the perfect all-American guy to an obsessed raving lunatic. Of course clues to his instability suddenly pop up everywhere and soon Claire has a full-blown stalker situation on her hands.
The script for this thing was written by a criminal lawyer named Barbara Curry. Her story was originally centered around Noah pulling Kevin away from his family and a determined mother fighting to get her son back. That idea offers a lot more potential than what we end up with. Instead we get an unoriginal stalker thriller that literally hits you with one overused cliché after another. The story gets wackier leading to an ending that flies completely off the rails and that leaves a number of loose ends when the credits roll that will have you shaking your head in disbelief.
“The Boy Next Door” is too unconsciously goofy to be taken seriously and it takes itself too seriously to be good campy fun. Lopez gives it a good go but you can only do so much with bad material. The story hasn’t an original thought and it’s hard to buy into anything we see. Complicate that with a laughably bad ending with enough loose threads to knit a sweater. Perhaps some may find enough to qualify this as a guilty pleasure. Me, I just felt guilty.
VERDICT – 1.5 STARS