Synopsis: Jennifer Lopez leads the cast in The Boy Next Door, a psychological thriller that explores a forbidden attraction that goes much too far. Directed by Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) and written by Barbara Curry, the film also stars Ryan Guzman, John Corbett and Kristin Chenoweth.
It’s easy to imagine that, if it weren’t for the language and nudity, The Boy Next Door would fit in somewhere rather easily in a lineup of Lifetime Original Movies. It’s certainly the sort of lurid thriller that fits in with those type of films. Freed of those particular restrictions, though, The Boy Next Door is the sort of trashy film that’s utterly predictable, but preposterous enough to be fun at times, even if the subject matter demands to be taken more seriously.
The film opens with Claire, a recently separated mother, teacher and part-time jogger who spends her time hanging out with her best friend and debating whether or not to divorce her philandering husband. Enter Noah, the newly-arrived nephew of her neighbor who quickly starts making repairs to Claire’s house, quoting The Iliad to impress her, and forming a relationship with son Jason that carries a bit of homoerotic tension.
Then one weekend, when Claire’s had too much to drink and Jason’s out of town, 20-year-old high school dropout (and reenrolled) Noah seduces her, in the Hollywood sense of “no, but you’re hot, so sure.” Yeah…for a solid minute at least, Claire’s protests to Noah’s advances are clear enough that I’d argue it’s rape, even if she does eventually consent. Her instant regret the next morning should also make that clear.
Of course, once Claire makes it clear the next morning that it was a mistake to sleep with him (which again, I would argue was a little more on the rapey side), Noah goes full-tilt Fatal Attraction on Claire. Hacking? Check. Blackmail? Yes. Brake tampering? You’ve got it! Kidnapping? Why, of course. Murder? Like you have to ask…
I’ll give the film credit for disposing of the slow build of stalking once the “one-night stand” happens. That brand of stalking is clearly going on before that night. Afterwards, Noah plunges into the depths of crazy. This is where the film becomes so campy, it’s fun in its own way. And to give him credit, Ryan Guzman sells his part well. He’s got the looks, and the film is more than willing to show his skin over Jennifer Lopez’s. More importantly, though, he plays unhinged well. It works with the material’s camp sensibilities, and makes him more memorable than Lopez’s Claire, who comes across as “Jennifer Lopez in fragile mode” most of the time.
It’s hard to take the film’s message, which essentially punishes Claire for sleeping with someone after separating from her philandering husband and considering divorce, too seriously when it’s so exaggerated. With that exaggeration comes unintentional comedy, and with that comes a film that, while far from great, at least will keep audiences’ attention.