January 24, 2015

The Boy Next Door

I WANT my golden ticket!

Grade: D
Director: Rob Cohen
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Kristin Chenoweth, Ian Nelson and John Corbett
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Let’s try and set aside the sketchy threshold morality of a movie named The Boy Next Door in which a teenage high school student is cast as the villainous half of a one-night stand with a 40-something literature teacher who looks like Jennifer Lopez.

Director Rob Cohen (really?) and the rest of the filmmakers sure try to mollify this thorny premise. Lopez’s Claire Henderson is already dealing with a broken marriage to her philandering husband (John Corbett) before booze hastens her foray into the waiting biceps of Noah (Ryan Guzman), the “almost 20” titular neighbor. Claire says “no” to Noah just enough times so the audience realizes she doesn’t really want to have sex with him, but not enough to introduce rape into the equation.

And all it takes is a moment of morning-after regret by Claire to instantly transform Noah from a charming handiman prone to quoting Homer and dutifully caring for his invalid uncle (Jack Wallace) to a violent psychopath. He hacks into Claire’s computer to enroll himself into her classics class, befriends her son Kevin (Ian Nelson) in order to manipulate him against her, cuts brake lines and wallpapers her classroom with seductive stills he secretly filmed. During one maniacal outburst, he spray paints a profane description of his conquest on the wall of the boy’s bathroom at school, an infective that’s apparently not seen by anyone else nor referenced again in the film.

Slapdash plotting like this is the film’s true crime. Noah’s uncle exists solely to make Noah looks like a nice guy; Kevin pines for the popular blond classmate who works at the local hardware store solely so Noah can seduce her later in front of Claire (something Kevin never learns about, basically negating that whole subplot).

The Boy Next Door is basically Swimfan with the genders reversed and a cougar (sorta) on the prowl. In some other movie released another time of year, there’s a fertile narrative about the recurring specter of mature students and immature adults finding emotional and/or physical attraction in a world where moral and sometimes legal boundaries have become blurred by social media and teen celebrity worship. Or a variation on Fatal Attraction, where the delineation of hero and villain isn’t exact.

This film isn’t any of that. The Boy Next Door is a Lifetime movie on steroids, with B-movie gore coupled with Skinemax-level titillation and dialogue—if you love food-related double entendres, this is the movie for you.