Jennifer Lopez is given the role of a lifetime in The Boy Next Door. Make that – role of a Lifetime as this thriller is no different than the guilty pleasure schlock you find on that channel. The difference is that it feels better to watch that kind of material on a couch and far hidden away from the public eye. When big stars (one at least) are involved, it feels cheaper than that occasional junk food excursion into carbon copy TV movie territory.
Lopez is Claire, a recently separated English lit teacher trying to move on with her life with her teenage son (Ian Nelson). Her husband is John Corbett and he’s trying to patch things up after he was caught cheating with his secretary. It’s revealed that Claire discovered her husband’s infidelity via email and that his mistress smelled like chocolate chip cookies. Whether he meant fresh-baked or store-bought is a plot point left dangling for our collective imaginations.
The title character is 19-year-old Noah (Ryan Guzman), a new addition to the neighborhood who’s living with his elderly uncle. His parents are deceased and we see that as a red flag quickly. Same with his love of the subject Claire teaches as they ridiculously discuss Homer’s Iliad. Yeah, it’s painful. On a weekend where the rest of her family is away on a camping trip, Noah successfully seduces her. She immediately realizes it was a mistake the next morning (at least her walk of shame is short, right??). Noah doesn’t see it that way and the boy next door turns into the stalker next door.
There is hardly a moment here where the screenplay doesn’t feel as lazily choreographed as J Lo on her worst day as a “In Living Color” fly girl. There’s the supportive best friend played by the talented Kristen Chenoweth, who should have been anywhere else during the filming of this. We have Kevin being given a serious medical ailment with his allergies. I will give the script reluctant credit for not using that overused cliche in quite the way I anticipated.
Rob Cohen, who started the Fast and Furious and xXx franchises, directs this low-budget enterprise with Lopez producing. Her acting is acceptable, I suppose. Guzman has plenty of moments where he overacts painfully. The screenplay is essentially an hour of finding ways for him to torment Claire and almost expose her for her one night she’d like to forget. None of them are memorable or believable. We are told a video exists of their romantic encounter and that it must be erased from his laptop, pronto!! I couldn’t help but think that any 19-year-old would have backed that thing up like J Lo in 1999 when MTV was playing her videos. With The Boy Next Door, you’ll want to back up an hour and a half of your time if you go down Jenny’s block here.
*1/2 (out of four)