The Boy Next Door – Film Review

Boy poster

What do you think is gonna happen?” demands desperate sounding high-school teacher Claire Peterson when the unhinged boy next door won’t leave her alone. “We’re gonna go on dates together?”

On a dark and restless night, after a few glasses of wine followed by a moment of weakness, Claire (Jennifer Lopez) succumbs to the overpowering persistence of Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman).  He’s The Boy Next Door who’s moved to town to act as a kind of caregiver to help his ailing grandfather.  With his male model good looks and his willingness to drop by at a moment’s notice, Noah soon becomes a problem.

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In keeping with the overall tone of the film, when we first meet Noah it’s not his face we see but his sweaty, muscular biceps.  His tanned, chiseled body-work aside, at first glance, the nineteen year old seems likeable enough to Claire and her teenage son, Kevin (Ian Nelson). Peering through her bedroom window late at night – in stilettos, full makeup, magazine-cover hairstyle and sexy, silky underwear no less – Claire even spies the young man tenderly caring for his grandfather.  He tucks the old man in bed and affectionately kisses his forehead.  How considerate is that?  With the economy of time, Noah has soon ingrained himself into Claire’s life; he fixes the garage door, tinkers with the car, teaches young Kevin how to box and protect himself from school bullies, and even quotes poetry.  Instead of a box of chocolates as a gift, he hands Claire a rare, early edition of Homer’s The Iliad.  For a lonely, seemingly educated school teacher, separated from her philandering husband (John Corbett), what’s not to like?  The boy next door is a dreamboat.

But it’s that one night, somewhere around the twenty-five minute mark, when Claire surrenders against the wall, murmuring “This is wrong” that everything changes.  “Let me love you, Claire,” Noah whispers as he proceeds to disrobe her, “It doesn’t feel wrong.”

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The next morning, when the sun rises and the wine is out of her system, Claire sees things differently.  “What have I done?” she asks herself repeatedly as she frantically tries to piece the murky events of the night before into some kind of perspective.  What she’s done has had a tawdry, one-night stand with the teenager who’s moved in next door.  Now she wants out.  But the nineteen year old, kick-boxing, Homer-quoting neighbor is having none of it.  When he angrily punches his fist in the wall with full force and bloodies his knuckles you immediately realize what you’ve known ever since you first saw a close-up of that bulging bicep; the hottie is a nut case.  It’s the ol’ cougar as victim scenario.

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There’s a subplot surrounding Noah’s parents and the suspicious nature of their deaths, but the film never really questions why Noah acts as he does; its formula dictates otherwise.  He’s obviously insane but the reasons behind his insanity are of no concern to the film.  All it really wants to do is to set the situation up as quickly as possible then spin the wheels of what it thinks is an erotic thriller but is really just a junky, predictable stalker flick with Lopez looking cover-girl gorgeous throughout, just as any high-school teacher would.  Director Rob Cohen delivers a competently enough made movie with all its ready-to-be-pushed buttons in place, where good looking people do stupid things in tense situations, but the outcomes are all what you expect.  It’s really dull.

MPAA Rating:  R   Length:  91 Minutes   Overall Rating:  3 (out of 10)

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