There are people that measure the quality of a neighbourhood based on the friendliness of its community. Morning hellos, block parties, barbecues and play dates paint a picture perfect scene. But considering most violent crimes are committed by someone you know, perhaps sociability isn’t always a good thing. In The Boy Next Door, a woman’s dinner offer invites much more than she intended.
Claire (Jennifer Lopez) is a recently separated high school teacher, raising a teenage boy (Ian Nelson) on her own. Neither of them are very handy, so when the neighbour’s newly moved in nephew, Noah (Ryan Guzman), extends his help to fix the garage door they accept it gladly. When his uncle is hospitalized for a prolonged period, Claire’s motherly disposition insists she let Noah hang out at their house. However, there’s nothing maternal about the way they look at each other. One night they’re both alone during a storm and they let their baser instincts takeover. While Claire views their intimacy as a mistake, Noah sees it as a symbol of their love for each other and is unwilling to take “no” for an answer.
The escalation of Noah’s obsession is surreal. The morning after their sexual encounter, he’s already punching a wall because Claire is backpedalling. This is followed by turning her son against his father (John Corbett), stalking Claire, physically attacking her and anyone that could stand between them, and threatening to publish images of their clandestine meeting. Granted the film is only 91 minutes, but it would seem this all occurs in little more than a couple of weeks.
Before things go sour, both characters are sexualized. But it’s Lopez — the female character — generally in the voyeur position. The audience’s first glimpse of the manly-shaped Guzman is a gratuitous bicep shot. Later he’s observed tuning a car in a revealing tank before being shown completely nude through a bedroom window. He’s certainly a well cut and attractive male specimen, but each time Claire catches herself looking at the young man she chastises herself. The fact that there’s a thunderstorm the night of their “lovemaking” is just the cherry on top of the thick sexual tension.
However, the objectification lens is reversed when they finally have sex. The close-ups are primarily of an almost-nude Lopez. At one point, Guzman’s hands are the only coverage provided for Lopez’s “globes” (as Jeremy Renner so aptly described the star’s cleavage recently). And since this is the only really sexy scene in the film, these images are recycled throughout the remainder of the picture.
While obsession and stalking aren’t really laughing matters, this movie is no Single White Female or The Paper Boy. For the most part, the script is ridiculous. Claire has several opportunities to inform police of the threat Noah poses including evidence that he’s dangerous, but ignores all of them in favour of confessing her fears to her best friend (Kristin Chenoweth). The sexual innuendo is practically embarrassing, involving the words “wet” and “your mom’s cookies.” The music cues are melodramatic, acting as if viewers actually need help deciphering the meaning of certain moments in this shallow story. And the countless fake smiles from both Claire and Noah could constitute a drinking game.
There was once a time when seeing director Rob Cohen’s name attached to a film was a plus rather than a minus, but that phase is shrinking in the rear-view mirror. If all you want is some eye candy and a bunch of shots of Lopez trying to look fierce, by all means spend your money — but don’t expect much more than that.