Director: Rob Cohen
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Kristin Chenoweth, John Corbett, Hill Harper, Ian Nelson, Travis Schuldt, Raquel Gardner
RunTime: 1 hr 37 mins
Rating: R21 (Sexual Scene And Violence)
Released By: UIP
Official Website: http://theboynextdoorfilm.com
Opening Day: 22 January 2015
Synopsis: Jennifer Lopez leads the cast in THE BOY NEXT DOOR, a psychological thriller that explores a forbidden attraction that goes much too far. Directed by Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) and written by Barbara Curry, the film also stars Ryan Guzman, John Corbett and Kristin Chenoweth.
Like its subject matter, ‘The Boy Next Door’ is getting such a hush-hush treatment it almost seems as if someone didn’t want you to see it. If that is any indication that someone was embarrassed by how this reverse ‘Fatal Attraction’ thriller turned out, well we’re glad to say that it isn’t as bad as we had feared. To be sure, that should not be mistaken for any endorsement of its merit, but given how little pre-release publicity its distributors bestowed upon it, we were sure expecting something much, much worse.
In her first big-screen role in two years, Jennifer Lopez plays a middle-aged high-school literature teacher who is still struggling to recover emotionally from her husband’s (John Corbett) betrayal one year on and raising her teenage son, Kevin (Ian Nelson, on her own. Enter new neighbour Noah (Step Up’s Ryan Guzman), who has moved in next door with his ailing uncle and proves himself to be quite the fix-it hero around her place, especially since Garrett’s (Corbett) absence means that there is a space for a man to be around the house. Even better, Noah loves poetry and his intimate knowledge of Homer’s ‘The Iliad’ becomes one of the first few things over which he and Claire (Lopez) develop a connection over.
There is however no mistaking their (mutual) sexual attraction, not when director Rob Cohen introduces Noah bicep-first when he glides into frame to prepare Claire’s wonky garage door. When Kevin takes off with Garrett for a weekend camping trip and Claire’s had one drink too many after a failed dinner date, Noah seizes the opportunity to get it on with Claire. The morning after, Claire wakes to proclaim their coupling a mistake – no matter that Guzman looks older than he is meant to be in the movie, he is a new transfer senior attending Claire’s class at her school. Her rebuff doesn’t sit well with Noah, whom we slowly learn is in fact a psychotic stalker who grows even more enraged when he catches her responding to Garrett’s advances to give their marriage a second chance.
First-time screenwriter Barbara Curry slowly ratchets up the stakes against Claire – first, Noah ‘poisons’ Kevin’s relationship with his father; then, he threatens to make public photos and even a video of their one-night dalliance; then, he sabotages the brakes on Garrett’s Dodger; and finally, he kidnaps Garrett and Kevin – which Cohen builds up as an increasingly thrilling chain of events leading up to their final confrontation. Not only does Noah prove himself to be a master manipulator, he also shows himself to be prone to bouts of violence, in particular against Claire’s good friend and the school’s vice principal (Kristin Chenoweth).
That said, it isn’t anything we haven’t yet before, or done to more titillating extremes; yet, despite its familiarity, Cohen guides the proceedings along with the sure hand of a veteran, and it is to his credit that the end result is much more engaging than it ought to be. We’re not sure what Lopez saw in the material for her to not only star but produce this rehash of 90s exploitation thrillers, but she at least makes her character sympathetic. The same however cannot be said of Guzman, whose portrayal of menace and malevolence doesn’t go much deeper than the acting you’ll see in a high school play. And for those who are expecting to see Lopez and Guzman get hot and heavy, well let’s just say that you’re likely to find yourself left cold.
It is probably too easy to lambast a movie like ‘The Boy Next Door’, but the truth is there are many worse films out there which deserve to be buried more so than this does. The premise does feel dated, but there hasn’t been a sexual thriller like ‘Basic Instinct’ or for that matter ‘Fatal Attraction’ in a while, so if you’re in the mood for some trashy B-grade thrills, you’ll probably find some of those urges satisfied somewhat by this teaser that never does really get past first base.
(Playing like a reverse ‘Fatal Attraction’, this sexual thriller starring a still-hot Jennifer Lopez is generic and predictable but never less than watchable)
Review by Gabriel Chong