Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Kristin Chenoweth
Directed by: Rob Cohen (“Alex Cross”)
Written by: Barbara Curry (debut)
There’s comes a point in the psychological thriller “The Boy Next Door” where one could almost argue that director Rob Cohen (“Alex Cross,” “Stealth”) and first-time screenwriter Barbara Curry had to have known what a terrible movie they created and were simply milking its awfulness as an ironic way to try and save face. How many awkwardly unfunny double entendres can you cram into a screenplay before it feels like a British spy parody, anyway? That instant quickly comes and goes when you realize everyone involved is taking their contribution on the project much too serious. It wouldn’t be surprising if Cohen and company honestly thought they were making the next “Cape Fear.” Whether that generates even more possibilities for unintended laughter depends solely on how much you enjoy watching actress Jennifer Lopez steer her newest vehicle into a brick wall. It’s not a pretty sight, but don’t feel bad if you giggle.
In “The Boy Next Door,” Lopez stars as Claire Peterson, a high school teacher who gets in over her head when she gives into temptation and has sex with her neighbor’s teenage nephew Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman). Things get complicating when Claire tells Noah their affair was a mistake, which immediately flips Noah’s psychotic switch on its highest level and causes him to start stalking Claire and threatening her with some damning evidence that would surely get her fired. With everyone fooled by Noah’s boy-next-door M.O., including Claire’s vulnerable son Kevin (Ian Nelson) and her cheating husband Garrett (John Corbett), Claire must find a way to distance herself from the creeper before he destroys her career, family and life.
With a depressingly long losing streak that arguably spans back at least 17 years, Lopez is not doing herself any favors by listening to whoever has been helping guide her movie career during this time. The paycheck is always going to be there for her, especially since she is one of the only major Latina celebrities who has been able to cross over to mainstream Hollywood with ease, but it’s a shame that she can’t see past that and find a role with substance. “The Boy Next Door” is offensively unoriginal and written with zero imagination or character depth. We’re not talking “Gigli” levels here, but it’s close.