The Boy Next Door

Posted by Joel Copling on January 22, 2015

Director Rob Cohen's "The Boy Next Door" desperately wants to be the kind of trashy, erotic thriller so prevalent throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it's on too unstable a fence between tameness and skeeviness to work as well (or as unintentionally well) as it clearly wants to. Barbara Curry's script boldens, highlights, and italicizes all of her own asinine twists with such blunt obviousness it's no wonder there's an It's Just a Cat moment. There are many kitchen sinks, too. This is a bad movie, although the heightened performances--especially from the heavy of the piece--are so earnest, as if the actors actually care about the blocks of soggy cardboard they play, that the experience is one of smirking amusement.

Well, except for that scene. You'll know the one if you see it (which I am far from suggesting you do). It involves an act of sexual violence, and the movie refuses to treat it for what it is. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) is a teacher at her son Kevin's (Ian Nelson) high school, recently separated from husband Garrett (John Corbett), and receiving personal counsel from best friend/vice principal Vicky Lansing (Kristin Chenoweth). When hunky hot-guy Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman), a 19-year-old senior at the high school, offers a hand with a garage door one day, there is the fleeting attraction, followed by some flirtatious words and the gift of a first-edition copy of Homer's "Iliad" (Say what?).

You now know where this is going. Noah has dark secrets and serious anger issues. He forces himself upon Claire quite literally in a scene for which the movie then shifts the blame onto Claire. So not only is it a laughable thriller; it's also a laughable thriller with archaic gender politics. As for the performances, none of them really resonates beyond Guzman's flailing histrionics. He becomes a cartoon character by the end of the film, never even remotely threatening beyond one chilling scene with Chenoweth in the principal's office. The whole of "The Boy Next Door" is ill-advised: Every twist is both obvious and stupid, every one of Nathan Barr and Randy Edelman's music cues dictates how frightened we must be, and the only thing gotten out of it is an entertaining doublet of innuendos about rain and cookies.

Film Information

Jennifer Lopez (Claire Peterson), Ryan Guzman (Noah Sandborn), Ian Nelson (Kevin Peterson), John Corbett (Garrett Peterson), Kristin Chenoweth (Vicky Lansing), Lexi Atkins (Allie Callahan), Hill Harper (Principal Edward Warren).

Directed by Rob Cohen and written by Barbara Curry.

Rated R (violence, sexual content/nudity, language).

91 minutes.

Released on January 23, 2015.