Another glorified Lifetime movie comes to a theatre near you, but this time with A-list actors, including the beautiful J-Lo and Broadway princess Kristin Chenoweth. The ridiculously plotted stalker/suspense movie The Boy Next Door will likely get a startle or scream out of you occasionally; but in the end, you will wonder why this wasn’t released on TV. And that’s when it hits you. Had it been on TV, then you wouldn’t get the steamy intimate scene between J-Lo and Ryan Guzman and wouldn’t get the violence during the third act. So, maybe it works better in a theatre than on TV, after all. Clearly, the draw to this movie isn’t the overly cliche plot or technical elements, but is likely Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman; however, just to try to get more people into the seats, Universal throws in Chenoweth and Hunger Games Ian Nelson.
When a handsome, charming 19 year-old named Noah (Guzman) moves in next door, newly separated high-school teacher Claire Peterson (Lopez) encourages his friendship and engages in a little bit of harmless–or so she thinks–flirtation. Although Noah spends much of the time hanging out with Claire’s son Kevin (Nelson), the teen’s attraction to her is palpable. One night, Claire gives in to temptation and lets Noah seduce her–but when she tries to end the relationship, he turns violent and publicly displays his obsession with her. After Noah enrolls himself into Claire’s literature class at the local high school, because he has yet to graduate, the school administration begins to notice her strange behavior. Following confessing to her best friend and vice-principal Vickie (Chenoweth) about what is going on between her and Noah, Claire discovers more than she thought she would in this suspense-driven movie.
Okay, so what if this is a movie that is more conducive for at-home viewing than at a movie theatre? That doesn’t mean that there aren’t elements to be enjoyed in the movie. If you want to see J-Lo naked, it has it. If you want to see Ryan Guzman naked, it has that too. If you like seeing Kristin Chenoweth in a movie, it has that as well; however, I am still convinced that she is definitely better on stage than on screen. And, if you like the cute-innocent-nerdyness of Ian Nelson, you will also be satisfied there. Moreover, if you enjoy a high concept obsession/suspense Lifetime-esque movie that you can essentially turn your brain off for, then you will likely enjoy this movie that is an appropriate 1.5hrs of runtime.
If you know anything about January release dates (and by those, I do not mean ones that were technically released in select cities around Christmas), then you will understand what I mean by it doesn’t get any more January than this. Still, the movie has suspenseful entertainment value. Don’t bother trying to work out all the plot devices or work through the narrative logically, because you will find yourself very disappointed. This is the kind of movie that is there for pure entertainment value–nothing more, nothing less. So, unlike most critics who are approaching this movie from a scholarly or pretentious perspective, I feel it does its job of providing 1.5hrs of escape into a world of pretty people in scandalous situations.