A film review by Craig J. Koban May 28, 2015



2015, R, 91 mins.


Jennifer Lopez as Claire  /  Ryan Guzman as Noah  /  John Corbett as Garret  /  Kristin Chenoweth as Vicky

Directed by Rob Cohen  /  Written by Barbara Curry

Why does Hollywood routinely make so many wretched erotic thrillers these days?  

The recent FIFTY SHADES OF GREY essentially numbed me into the self-loathing fetal position, and now comes THE BOY NEXT DOOR, yet another in an inexcusably long line of FATAL ATTRACTION-esque, fill-in-the-blank-from-hell thrillers.  In this fill-in-the-blank-from-hell case the film concerns a psychotic high school boy that begins an illicit sexual fling with his mid-fortysomething teacher that turns into a lethally dangerous relationship.  For the most part, THE BOY NEXT DOOR is neither thrilling nor even remotely erotic; it's just unpardonably and laughably awful on most accounts. 

THE BOY NEXT DOOR is also the poster child for “The Idiot Plot Syndrome,” a cinematic affliction that affects movies containing characters that could solve all of their nagging problems immediately…if there were not full-blown morons.  It’s one thing for the film to contain characters so wooden and generic that they might as well have been marionette puppets, but it’s a whole other cringe-inducingly terrible ordeal to witness said characters make irreproachably dumb choices throughout the story.  THE BOY NEXT DOOR does virtually nothing novel with its been-there/ done-that mad stalker premise, which bounces around from one maddeningly preordained plot beat to the next.  It could have at least had the decency to attain a level of unintentionally funny trash, but THE BOY NEXT DOOR reaches plateaus of startling ineptitude so frequently that, at 91 minutes long, it feels as long as the last HOBBIT film. 

In this silly, silly, silly movie Jennifer Lopez plays high school English teacher Claire Peterson that works in the San Fernando Valley and is enraptured by works like Homer’s ODYSSEY.  Lopez is 45-years-old and, to her credit, is a remarkably ageless presence in the movies, but here she appears less like a plausible teacher approaching middle age than she does look like she’s just stepped off of a runway.  She seems impossibly glammed up for a role that would have benefited from a bit more of a ground normalcy.  Anyhoo’, Claire is a single mom to her young teenage son (Ian Nelson) and has just come off a nasty separation from her husband (John Corbett), who apparently committed some level of adultery.  She’s pressing for divorce, whereas he’s desperately urging her to give him another chance. 



Clearly, Claire is feeling rather worthless at the moment, and her son seems to be yearning for another positive male role model in his life after his father exited the scene.  Well, salvation, so to speak, comes to both Claire and her kid in the form of a new hunky neighbor named Noah (Ryan Guzman), who has just recently moved in next door to tend after his physically ailing uncle.  Initially, Noah comes off as the obligatory – ahem! – boy next door that seems honor bound and willing to help Claire with just about any menial task she requires.  He’s really good at fixing storm drains, gutters, and cars…all while Claire lustfully fixates on his chiseled shirtless façade.  Noah is the embodiment of a female pornographic fantasy: incalculably good looking, muscle bound, kind, and seemingly available.  And good at yard work.  That too.

Noah does take a liking to both Claire and her boy, and he even helps defend the latter from some school bullies (he seems almost hyper aggressive in the manner that he trashes them in the school’s hallways).  Noah also manages to take a liking to the works of Homer and finagles his way into Claire’s English class (it’s revealed that he never graduated from high school due to his troubled orphan past).  Rather predictably, the needy Claire finds herself ensnared by Noah’s charm, and the two eventually have a night of carnal pleasure (which is filmed with maximum exposure to Guzman’s naked buttocks and minimum exposure to a semi-nude Lopez).  Claire realizes her mistake the next day, but the more she politely tries to fend off Noah’s advances, the more the teen begins to demonstrate an unhealthy fixation for Claire that spills over in predictably nasty ways. 

Okay, let’s start with one glaring issue with THE BOY NEXT DOOR: Guzman never once comes off plausibly as a lad that’s 18-years-old (he’s 27 in real life, which is abundantly clear in the film).  The suspension of disbelief when it comes to the age of the actor playing the villain rears its head right from the get-go, but this is also not assisted by the fact that Guzman never feels compellingly or frighteningly menacing throughout the story.  It’s pretty clear that – much like Jamie Dornan in FIFTY SHADES OF GREY – he was cast ostensibly for his looks and not for his keen thespian abilities at delving into the deep layers of insanity that permeates Noah.  Note to all filmmakers making genre pictures like this: get an actor that’s acceptably unnerving and creepy enough to authentically pull off the antagonist role.  Just imagine what a Miles Teller could have done with this part if cast? 

Lopez perhaps may be the only bright performance spark in this otherwise ridiculous film.  To her credit, she plays her role with as much naturalness as possibly considering the inane script and overall narrative arc that she finds herself populating.  Granted, and as stated, Claire looks so insatiably good in the film that she’s almost hard to swallow as a deeply vulnerable and anxiety plagued woman (an actress with less overt sex appeal would have been a wiser choice here).  When the film doesn’t completely lose itself in the avenue of character dynamics it becomes an even greater head-scratching debacle as the story careers towards a howler of a climax that features the stalker battling out against his prey in a...uh huh...burning barn that boils over to some shockingly gory violence that seems like it belongs more in a torture porn horror movie than here.  And don’t get me started on some of the other insidiously stupid plot developments leading up to this point, like a laughable detail involving Noah having blackmail photos and videos of his sexcapades with Claire…all conveniently stored on his computer that’s even more conveniently lacking  password-protection.  Oy vey. 

THE BOY NEXT DOOR was directed by Rob Cohen, a million miles removed from past successes like the very first FAST AND FURIOUS film way, way back in 2001.  His recent career has been riddled with one critically panned film after another, like STEALTH, ALEX CROSS and the worst of THE MUMMY series, TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR.  He reaches all new levels of inhuman directorial incompetency with THE BOY NEXT DOOR, a duller-than-dull standard-order thriller that feebly gets by on nonsensical silliness, putrid acting, clichéd riddled story contrivances, and a genuine lack of genre novelty.  Lopez is a good actress…when she wants to be (past successes like THE CELL and OUT OF SIGHT are proof positive of that), but she reaches a whole other echelon of desperation in wanting to star in and produce this breathlessly unoriginal schlockfest.  Screening THE BOY NEXT DOOR made me sad.  If you’re wondering whether or not Hollywood has irreparably screwed up the erotic potboiler genre to the aesthetic point of no return, then just endure this film.  

It’ll more than convince you of its unworthiness. 

  H O M E