The Boy Next Door

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, John Corbett, Ian Nelson, Kristen Chenoweth

Director: Rob Cohen

Writer: Barbara Curry

How do films like this even get made anymore? I know that Hollywood has a tendency to reuse old ideas and milk them for all that they’re worth, but surely even they know better than to make films like this. The Boy Next Door is the same generic film with the same tired story, the same dull characters, and the same overused clichés that we’ve all seen before. It has been done a million times before and it has been done better. Not only is this a bad film, it’s not even an entertainingly bad film. Recounting the story and analysing the film seems pretty redundant since it doesn’t offer anything new, interesting or entertaining to talk about. However I’ve already wasted 90 minutes of life sitting through this film so I might as well see it through.

The story is that of Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez), a smart, independent woman who has always had bad luck with men. The disjointed and sloppily edited opening scene reveals the troubled state of her marriage following her husband’s infidelity. Her husband (John Corbett) eventually walked out and left Claire with their son Kevin (Ian Nelson). A few months later, when Claire and Kevin have managed to get things back to normal and are starting to make ends meet, Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman) enters the scene. Noah is the handsome, muscular, well-read nephew of the kindly old man next door who has come to look after him as he undergoes an operation. Claire is immediately infatuated with Noah and the two of them bond while discussing Homer’s The Iliad during which Noah reveals his fascination for the character of Achilles, a fiery, hot-tempered man who is driven to action by his rage and passion (and also an infinitely more interesting character than Noah despite the obvious parallel they’re trying to draw here).

The attraction between them intensifies as Noah starts spending more time at Claire’s house and awkwardly flirts with her. After her best friend Vicky Lansing (Kristen Chenoweth) sets her up on a blind date that goes badly, Claire goes over to see Noah. There she and Noah give in to their desires and they share a moment of passion that enforces the gross misconception that “no” means “yes” and that smart, independent women are easily overcome by their emotions. The next day Claire regrets her actions and tells Noah that what they did was a mistake. She tries to avoid him from then on but doing so proves difficult when Noah befriends her son and becomes a student in her class. Noah immediately starts exhibiting stalkerish, psychopathic behaviour (despite not showing any prior signs of emotional unbalance whatsoever) such as alluding to the affair in front of her family, hacking her e-mail, and using her son in order to get to her. As his actions become more aggressive Claire becomes increasingly concerned and afraid (although never enough to get the police involved, not even when Noah sends a student to the hospital!).

I suppose that Claire is the film’s attempt at depicting a relatable fully rounded female protagonist, and fair play to the film for trying, but it really doesn’t work. While the film tries to establish her as this intelligent, cultured and self-reliant woman who hides a passionate nature deep within, she instead comes across as this feeble, weak-willed person who the film effectively slut-shames. Lopez’s performance is not terrible (there’s only so much that any actress can do with such poor material) but she does not really bring anything to the role. Noah is supposed to be this passionate, fervent, enflamed figure in the vein of Achilles who loses control when he is overcome by a raging obsession, as if that alone is supposed to explain everything. Instead we are given an uninteresting character with good looks and muscles who changes at the flip of the coin when the plot tells him to. Perhaps there is some sort of feminist statement trying to be made in this film about the victimisation of this woman at the hands of a psychopathic borderline-rapist would-be murderer, but whatever message there may have been gets completely lost in this mess of a film.

There really isn’t much more to say about this film. The Boy Next Door is riddled with endless clichés that will induce a plethora of groaning and eye rolling. It is an extremely badly written film that defies any sort of sense or reason and which gives way to some incredible examples of absurdities and stupidity (a first edition copy of The Iliad? Seriously??). The characters are so bland and their dialogue is so cringeworthy that the film completely lacks any sort of campiness or ridiculousness that might have otherwise made this an enjoyable film. There really is nothing worthwhile about watching this film. My recommendation for anyone interested in seeing it is don’t. Go watch Fatal Attraction or Basic Instinct instead.

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