Review of The Boy Next Door

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman & John Corbett

Directed by: Rob Cohen

Universal Pictures

January has historically been the month when film studios dump their less than desirable product into movie theaters. Ticket sales slow down in the winter after the holiday season is over and it’s past the deadline date for the zillions of awards that the entertainment industry likes to bestow upon itself so there isn’t a better time for Hollywood to clear out the dreck. When you then add a film starring Jennifer Lopez, whose alleged talent has long escaped me, in the January equation, the results are almost guaranteed to be astonishingly awful. “The Boy Next Door” certainly doesn’t buck the odds.

Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) is a suburban LA high school literature teacher. J-Lo is not going to let playing an educator stop her character from wearing the latest clothes, having model-like hair and makeup, and living in a modern Southern California mansion. All is not peaches and cream for her however as she is separated from her husband, Garrett (John Corbett), who is an information technology executive. Claire caught Garrett cheating on her during a San Francisco business trip. Claire’s dorky teenage son, Kevin (Ian Porter) desperately needs a fatherly or big brotherly figure.

Right on cue in steps Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman), a strapping 20 year-old from San Bernardino who has moved next door to Claire so that he can take care of his ailing grand-uncle. Noah can quote ancient Greek literature, fix pesky garage doors, and take apart and put back together any car’s engine.

He asks Claire to come over and help him roast a chicken on a rare, rainy Saturday night in Southern California. One thing leads to another as they say. The fact that actor Ryan Guzman, a former mixed martial arts star, looks like a combination of Channing Tatum, Jason Priestley, and James Franco, makes this steamy scene with J-Lo, credible which is more than I can say for most of this film. Like Lopez, Guzman gets to wear preppy clothes for the entire film which adds to his hunk factor. He looks like a Nautica or Polo Ralph Lauren model who in fairness does possess some acting ability.

Of course there are the expected regrets on Claire’s part the following morning. When she tries to break it to Noah gently that theirs was a wonderful one-night thing that won’t ever be repeated, he turns into a raving, maniacal stalker who will do whatever is necessary to make sure that she never reconciles with her estranged husband who is trying to patch things up. It will be over his dead body if they do.

“The Boy Next Door” goes downhill rapidly as novice screenwriter Barbara Curry turns this movie into a very poor version of one of CBS’s many primetime procedurals. The audience in the theater that I was at started laughing as is they were watching one of the “Scary Movie” sequels as Claire idiotically puts herself into one risky situation after anther without using a shred of common sense such as breaking into Noah’s basement when he isn’t home to try to find the video he made of their lovemaking session or entering the home of a friend who is in danger even though the electricity has been turned off and it’s pitch black outside. Add to this nonsense the over-the-top burning farmhouse finale which is cliched cinema 101.

Just about the only time when “The Boy Next Door” provides any true food for thought is a scene where Claire’s best friend, Vicki (the always welcome Kristin Chenoweth), sets up a double date for them. During the dinnertime conversation Claire tells her date that she teaches “the classics” and she is upset with his reaction. “The classics are nice but we need to prepare students for the jobs in the workforce as well,” he replies. The scene abruptly ends with the filmmakers trying hard to make the guy look like a jerk when in fact there is a lot of merit to his point. The reality is that expensive liberal arts colleges are under a lot of scrutiny exactly because there is a disconnect between what is taught and its value in the economic marketplace.

The entertainment trade magazine, Variety, reported that “The Boy Next Door” was shot in 25 days on a shoestring $4 million budget (Jennifer Lopez is the film’s producer), and it certainly shows. In the film’s defense it can be argued that like “Showgirls” or those cheesy Ed Wood movies, it’s so bad that it’s actually good.

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