The Boy Next Door Review
Newly divorced teacher Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) feels she is failing; unable to buy her son expensive presents like his father and unable to find a decent man, she appears to be saved when handsome and helpful Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door. The down-on-her-luck mother and the man who suffers a worse shirt allergy than Jacob in Twilight begin a steamy affair, but things begin to take a darker turn when Noah’s influence infects Claire’s son Kevin (Ian Nelson).
As I sit writing this, I’m beginning to wonder why Adam Wingard hasn’t sued the makers of The Boy Next Door yet, because – erotic sub-plot aside – the plot is pinched piece-by-piece from The Guest: the Peterson family are in disarray, but a mysterious, chiselled stranger turns up. At first willing to help, he exhibits a taste for flirting and firearms before revealing sinister motives in a blood-splattered trail of destruction. Sound familiar?
Remember the ridicule that Mark Wahlberg endured when cast as a literature professor in The Gambler? Well frankly I think we were all a little harsh, because Jennifer Lopez has somehow managed to knock him from the top-spot as the least convincing English teacher in the world: not only does she fail to notice that a supposed ‘first edition’ of the Iliad gifted to her by her hunky neighbour would have to have been perfectly preserved since 1240 BC, but whose job is mostly indicated by a model of the Globe Theatre sitting on her desk.
The measly 4 million dollar budget sticks out like a sore thumb throughout, whether it’s the stickers carefully covering any fruit-branded laptops and phones or the Hallmark Channel-style cinematography (honestly, you begin to worry that someone’s going to have their irises singed by the angelic light seeping from the scenery). Clearly a budget that stretched to nice cars and perfect make-up didn’t cover a script, because the dialogue is so predictable that members of the audience vocally predicted entire lines before the characters spoke them.
I wouldn’t go so far as to stamp the film as completely unwatchable: some of the dialogue (particularly during the one racy escapade) reaches The Room levels of hilarity and the final act is jaw-droppingly ludicrous, but asides from occasional comic value there’s little of note here. From the by-the-numbers narrative (a sliver of adult content, an exploding car or two) to the cardboard cut-out characters, The Boy Next Door is as generic as they come, and will be remembered only as a stereotype for other B-movies to reference.