‘The Boy Next Door’ Review: My Neighbor Psycho Beau
It may be tempting for audiences to label Rob Cohen’s new erotic thriller The Boy Next Door as a “bad movie,” or even with the backhanded compliment “So Bad It’s Good.” But those audiences would be entirely missing the point. The Boy Next Door is an absolute triumph of cheese, served with a generous helping of sleaze.
Crafted with slick filmmaking in the service of an almost ludicrously familiar stalker storyline, Rob Cohen has finally crafted a worthy successor to the successful Fast and the Furious franchise, for which he will perhaps always be best known. As with those over the top actioners, The Boy Next Door plops implausibly attractive genre clichés into a ridiculously straightforward storyline and milks every tried-and-true moment for all the suspense, humor and sexiness it can eke. And the characters, even when they’re going in there when they should absolutely NOT GO IN THERE, take the whole premise so seriously that you can’t help but care about what happens to them.
Related: Ryan Guzman Ad-Libbed Everyone’s Favorite Line in ‘The Boy Next Door’ (Exclusive Interview)
As with all erotic thrillers, The Boy Next Door begins with temptation. Claire (Jennifer Lopez) is an English teacher, separated from her philandering husband Garrett (John Corbett) and raising a dorky teenager named Kevin (Ian Nelson). Into this unappreciated life walks Noah (Ryan Guzman), a chiseled super hunk who fixes her garage door opener, knows his classic literature, and worships the ground Claire walks on. “You’d fuck him too” is basically what The Boy Next Door is saying, and thanks to the lurid cinematography and all-too-perfect pickup lines, the audience is practically guaranteed to concede that the movie has a point.
And naturally Noah turns into an obsessive freak, insinuating himself into Kevin’s life, threatening to reveal Claire’s secret to the school (where Noah is also a student, despite being a barely legal 20-years-old), and finally placing the whole family in mortal danger. Noah infuses spectacularly broad double-entendres into every conversation with Claire, fornicates spectacularly with Kevin’s high school crush in full view of the neighborhood, and I defy you to tell me that the action-packed climax isn’t a barn burner.
The Boy Next Door contributes absolutely nothing new to the erotic thriller genre, and it doesn’t have to. It runs headlong into the wall of conventionality and smashes through it like a juggernaut without so much as an apology. The spry, knowing direction – combined with the screenplay’s steadfast commitment to every old school plot point – makes it work. Again, the poor bastard characters in Rob Cohen’s movie have no idea that they’re in a movie, but The Boy Next Door is one of the movie-est movies that’s ever movied. The storytelling is drenched in artificiality but Claire and Noah are far too busy getting drenched in other things to notice.
That strict adherence to a formula, combined with the too-perfect dialogue and CW Channel performances, might look like bad filmmaking to some of us, but the perfectly cheeseball tone is so consistent and so effective that it couldn’t possibly be meant as anything less than broad entertainment. And it entertains so broadly that the audiences – certainly the one in my theater – shriek, cheer, jump and even burst into periodic applause. The Boy Next Door works entirely on its own merits, eliciting exactly the responses it’s aiming for. You can argue that it’s not high art, but don’t pretend that The Boy Next Door isn’t effective.