Let’s get one thing out of the way now – The Boy Next Door is ludicrous, cheese-coated trash that requires at least one jumbo tub of popcorn and a soda bigger than your head to accompany this cut-and-dry ridiculousness. But they say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? Admittedly, Rob Cohen’s erotic schlock is no such American classic, but if it were a sweet treat, it’d be the most shockingly deceptive, twisted, rot-your-teeth-it’s-so-sugary Willy Wonka concoction that could only be met with shouts of “WHAT IN THE ACTUAL F@CK?!” Actor Ryan Guzman does not ask to be taken seriously, writer Barbara Curry does not care that her story could be the zany offspring of a much more dimwitted Adam Wingard flick, and Jennifer Lopez will NOT show her bare chest – she’ll just let Guzman aggressively kneed her breasticles like two mounds of pizza dough as a classy distraction!
Ms. Lopez plays a high school literature teacher named Claire Peterson, a recently separated suburbanite trying to somehow piece her life back together amidst non-stop cookie baking and helicopter-parenting. To make things more complicated, a sweet boy with washboard abs named Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves into town so he can look after a sick family member, but he ends up spending most of his time getting to know Mrs. Peterson after becoming instantly infatuated with his MILF-y next-door-neighbor. After numerous innocent dinners together, peeking across the yard into the window of Noah’s bedroom, Claire catches a glimpse of his sweet, naked bum as he’s changing. Seeing Claire’s reflection in his mirror, Noah quickly turns around to catch her in the act, but she’d already hidden behind a window curtain, giggling like a school girl – a cute charade that unexpectedly turns into a passionate sexual encounter later that night. Realizing her mistake of giving the charming young stud a taste of something more than just her cookies, Claire quickly becomes flustered, and tries to leave, but it becomes obvious that Noah felt the night was the start of something special – and he won’t take “No” for an answer.
The Boy Next Door feels like a not-so-tongue-in-cheek B-Movie that throws subtlety out the window, to the point where you’re expecting characters to break the fourth wall and wink directly at you after slinging another egregiously hammy double entendre. “Oh man, I love your Mom’s cookies!” is just one of the many innuendos so hatefully spouted by Guzman, as his pun-tastic character transforms into some stalker-ish Bond villain with the rage-alicious temper of Russell Crowe. Curry’s screenplay is riddled with laughable moments of suspense-less objectification, but Cohen keeps this crazy train moving forward by never letting an iota of seriousness seep into any aspect of such an outlandish, unpredictable thriller. Whether the comedy is intentional or so-bad-it’s-good, I guarantee you’ll be laughing harder than you ever expected.
While Jennifer Lopez’s portrayal of a reverse Mrs. Robinson scenario might seem like a shoe-in as the cast’s biggest draw, it’s Guzman who quickly steals the spotlight as he dives boisterously into an unparalleled bout of obsessive madness. I’m not quite sure if Guzman is a genius savant or the luckiest over-actor in Hollywood history, but the character of Noah is reason alone to indulge in The Boy Next Door‘s madcap romanticism. While Curry writes her antagonist as an innocent hunk with a dark past, Guzman’s wry comments and blatantly sexual advances increase with a hilarious brand of psychotic ignorance that blends Dan Stevens’ portrayal in The Guest (on a much more ineffective level) with blind, immature infatuation à la The Roommate or any other teen stalker flick. Lines that might incite exasperated groans find a new life through Guzman’s delivery, hamming his violent adoration beyond levels that exist in our Earthly realm.
I’m at a loss, because while I’m trained to detest the very existence of The Boy Next Door, I’d still rather watch JLo and Guzman haplessly flirt on-screen then sit through even HALF of Blackhat again. Why? Just when we think The Boy Next Door might timidly deflate like many cheap-o obsessions stories have before, an extremely out-of-place and wildly unexpected ending flips off normal genre conventions and gets lost playing in its own unexpectedly gory mind. Cohen’s direction stumbles along as if he’s in a drunken stupor half the time, letting Guzman, a chatty Kristin Chenoweth, and youngster Ian Nelson get away with cinematic murder, but dammit if those scenes don’t add up into some oddly enjoyable monstrosity. I mean, there’s an actual line of dialogue about Sidney Lumet’s The Wiz – AND THEN ITS RELEVANCE IS EXPLAINED BY A BULLISH SKATER PUNK. What is this movie? What planet do I live on?
The Boy Next Door will be a cult classic. Mark my words. It’s dirty, sexy trash. If it were a paperback novel, its cover art would probably showcase a Fabio-like model, drawing in desperate housewives who would read said garbage while popping bonbons and loving every salacious minute. This film will rot your brain like eating cotton candy would disintegrate healthy teeth, so enjoy Cohen’s latest responsibly and keep it as your own dirty little secret. We all have our weaknesses, right?
When we're all sitting in a midnight screening of The Boy Next Door someday, throwing home-baked cookies at the screen, I'll be the one shouting "I told you so!"