We’ve been recently reminiscing about Jennifer Lopez with the Out of Sight-lite Focus currently on release. Surely the star is due for a resurgence and could The Boy Next Door be her triumphant return to those glory days? In a word, no.
The plot sees Lopez’s literature teacher Claire Peterson (let that sink in for a moment), struggling to cope with the break-up of her marriage. Her husband has confessed to his infidelities but is still on the scene as the couple have a teenage son to bring up together. Kevin (Ian Nelson) seems to have accepted the awkwardness of his home life, with his dad occasionally dropping by, but is still bullied at school. Claire is herself struggling with loneliness, something she only realises in full when handsome 19-year-old Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door. Befriending Kevin, and taking a keen interest in Claire, the ultimate boy next door sets his sights on getting closer to the family, and one night things go all the way.
Claire and Noah have an intense night together, but she instantly regrets the affair. Trying to distance herself from her neighbour, she is dismayed to find Noah has enrolled in her class and isn’t going to give her up anytime soon. As his actions become more dangerous and reckless, threatening to expose the brief tryst, Claire realises her whole family are under threat from the unstable Noah. He has a dark past, and all his insecurities are about to explode in a violent climax.
The film veers on self-parody from the off. Terrible cookie based puns used as innuendo open the film, and on reflection are actually one of the highlights. If I have used language that is all too “wink wink” to describe Noah and Claire having sex, then the film has taught me well. Just wait till you hear the love-sick teen talk about how “wet” things get.
I say teenager, Ryan Guzman is actually in his very late twenties and he looks it. He is by no means unattractive, in fact he makes for a very appealing leading man, but trying to pass him off as a high-school kid is just one step shy of Joey from Friends getting down with the kids with the immortal “S’up with the whack PlayStation, s’up!”.
You’re never quite sure how much of what you see on screen is tongue in cheek (no, that’s not another reference to the sex scene). There appears to be a knowing glance to camera at times, as if the naff-ness is completely intentional. Surely an actress of Lopez’s experience will be aware of this as she quotes the classics with a doe-eyed look at the handsome stranger?
Guzman is best known for the Step Up sequels, so it’s a surprise to see no real pay-off in a samba with J-Lo. It’s missed opportunities like this that eventually make you unable to even tolerate this film as a guilty pleasure. In your heart of hearts it’s clear that everyone is taking this seriously, and as such it’s something close to a stinker.
The eventual psychotic breakdown of Noah all comes in a hurry and has little to do with what we see before it. Recent ‘too-good-to-be-true’ thriller The Guest gave us absolute over-the-top insanity and Dan Stevens going nuts, but here we get temper tantrums, an old man creepily getting into high school as a teenager, and Jennifer Lopez stalking from her bedroom window.
You will probably laugh heartily while watching this film, but that is no recommendation.