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The Independent Critic

Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, John Corbett, Kristin Chenoweth
Rob Cohen
Barbara Curry
Rated R
91 Mins.
Universal Pictures

 "The Boy Next Door" Just Needs to Move Away 
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This time, it appears that Jenny's from the wrong block.

Let's face it. There are times, laughably glorious times, when a film really is as bad as it looks from its trailer. The Boy Next Door is one of these times, a late January studio throw-away film featuring yet another nail in the cinematic coffin of Jennifer Lopez's career and affirmation that if you suck in a Step Up film then you're probably going to suck in everything else.

There will be those of you who will enjoy, at least on some guilty pleasure level, the trifle that is known as The Boy Next Door, a film that seems to exist primarily as a reason to remind us that even in her mid-40's that Jennifer Lopez has a better ass than a good majority of America. The Boy Next Door reminds me of all those late night Cinemax softcore erotic thrillers designed to serve that population of the sexually frustrated universe that sits up late at night looking for any semblance of a breast on television, actually calls those pay-per-minute dating chat lines in the back of alternative newsweeklies, or get turned on when Lisa Simpson gets a bikini shot. The problem is that The Boy Next Door is neither erotic nor thrilling enough to qualify for Cinemax, yet it might actually show one Guzman buttock cheek too much to actually be considered for its deserved home on late night Lifetime television.

Lopez is actually a semi-talented actress within a limited range that apparently does not include mousy high school teacher vulnerable to the attentions of semi-hunky, yet emotionally and intellectually vacant next door neighbor just beyond that age where it might actually lead to a jail sentence but actually still a student after missing a year due to the death of his parents (because she's a female teacher rather than a male teacher). Lopez plays Claire Peterson, a fortysomething classics teacher with a messy, falling apart marriage to Garrett (John Corbett) and a son, Kevin (Ian Nelson), whom we really need to talk about. Into this mix comes Noah (Ryan Guzman), a 19-year-old troubled teen who moves in next door and befriends the largely unfriendable Kevin with his eyes really set on the even more vulnerable Claire.

If you don't actually know where this is going, then you may very well be the target for this paint-by-numbers silliness. The Boy Next Door earns more giggles than chills, with even Lopez seemingly disinterested by the midway point and "I love your mom's cookies" the only anticipated line actually worth waiting for in the just over 90-minute film. Guzman, on the other hand, plays Noah like the kid who spent most of his time in the local boys' school taking copious notes but actually learning nothing.

There are so many reasons to hate The Boy Next Door, though I think the most obvious reason of all is that director Rob Cohen doesn't even have the decency to turn it into a B-grade psychosexual thriller. Cohen, who started off with such big budget successes as the original Fast and the Furious and XXX before downward spiraling into such crap as Stealth, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and Alex Cross, hasn't so much crafted this limp, tepid film as much as he's seemingly allowed it to happen. The Boy Next Door is the kind of film that leaves you wondering who's sitting in the studio board chairs and how on earth did they ever greenlight a project such as this one.

With her first screenplay credit, but not last given that she's also got The Perfect Guy in the works, Barbara Curry has crafted a so laughably bad script that you can't help but hope that it was horribly butchered by the powers that be. From wooden and unrealistic dialogue to impossible scenarios, such as Noah's gifting of Claire with a "first edition" copy of the centuries old "The Iliad," The Boy Next Door is more ludicrous than the idea of Lopez actually pulling off playing a classics teacher.

If you've ever found yourself masturbating to Lisa Simpson or picking up a Sears catalog for the bra and panty advertisements, then The Boy Next Door may very well be the film for you. Everyone else? Step down.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic