You’re Trembling, by Rudie Obias
I’m just going to put it out there: watching The Boy Next Door is like taking crazy pills. Nothing makes sense but it gives you a giddy buzz at the same time. While there are many movies out there that are so bad they’re good, The Boy Next Door is one of those rare movies that’s so bad it’s good but turns out to be just plain bad but just before the end credits roll it gets good again for a very brief moment. Not to sound repetitive. But let’s break it down.
The Boy Next Door follows Claire Peterson, played by Jennifer Lopez, a middle-aged high school classics teacher, who is also newly separated from her husband, played by John Corbett. She caught him cheating on her while he was on a business trip and he’s trying to patch things up with his wife and teenaged son Kevin, played by Ian Nelson. While her family is slowly going to pieces, a new boy named Noah, played by Ryan Guzman, moves next door to help take care of his dying uncle, which is a plot point that just gets thrown out and forgotten. Slowly, but surely, Noah starts to appear in Claire’s life, as he tries to seduce her in her very vulnerable state and play a surrogate father-figure to Kevin. Did I mention Noah is 19 going on 30 years old?
The idea of Ryan Guzman, who’s a very beefy individual, playing a high school student is laughable. The movie does explain that he lost a year of high school after his parents died, which is why he looks so much older than Kevin, who actually looks like a high school student. The titular boy next door enrolls in Claire’s high school classics class because he’s so passionate about art and poetry. No, really. Did I mention that Noah’s favorite book in the world is The Iliad? Lines like “Dude, you gotta read The Iliad!,” along with Homer references, are peppered throughout The Boy Next Door. Noah actually gives Claire a “first edition” of The Iliad at some point in the movie. But rather than giving her a scroll or tablet of a poem that was written within 50 years of 762 BCE, Noah gives Claire a book that looks exactly like it’s from the classics section at Barnes and Noble.
Claire and Noah get involved sexually in one very steamy scene but after she rejects him for being too young, Noah spends the rest of the movie stalking Claire until he ultimately becomes violent with her family and friends. The Boy Next Door unfolds in a way that just doesn’t make sense.
There’s a scene in which Noah violently lashes out in school, gets reprimanded, and lashes out violently again but in the next scene, characters seem fully unaware that Noah is disturbed and a loose cannon. What happened here? Did we just completely miss a scene? A majority of The Boy Next Door works like this: Something is revealed about a character, and then no one remembers said revelation in the next scene. This occurrence happens far too often to give director Rob Cohen and screenwriter Barbara Curry the benefit of the doubt that they’re knowingly making a bad movie.
It’s only at the end of the film that the filmmakers seem to realize that they’ve made a bad movie and just have fun with it at the expense of its ridiculous plot and characters. I can honestly say that the last act is where the movie does have its moments, namely in its barn-burning climax, in which Claire gets pushed too far and takes actions into her own hands. While I would’ve loved to see Claire go more over-the-top trying to save her family and friends in a real genre-heavy way, the film takes a restrained approach that is satisfying in a trashy and very cheesy way. And I think that’s what makes The Boy Next Door somewhat enjoyable. It’s the kind of trashy movie-of-the-week quality that you can certainly have a lot of fun with, if you know what you’re getting into watching.