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With: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Ian Nelson, John Corbett, Kristin Chenoweth, Lexi Atkins, Hill Harper
Written by: Barbara Curry
Directed by: Rob Cohen
MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexual content/nudity and language
Running Time: 91
Date: 01/23/2015

The Boy Next Door (2015)

1/2 Star (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Rob Cohen has made many terrible films (like The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor), and now they can welcome a new member to their club. Not one thing about the new "thriller" The Boy Next Door is even remotely credible, much less suspenseful.

A high school teacher of classic literature, Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez), is raising her teenage son Kevin (Ian Nelson) on her own, since her husband (John Corbett) left her for a younger woman. A hunky young neighbor, Noah (Ryan Guzman), who is "almost 20," moves in next door to take care of his uncle.

One night, Noah seduces the sexy, lonely Claire, even though she knows it's wrong (and even though Guzman acts more like a paper pin-up than a flesh-and-blood lover). Afterward, Noah becomes obsessed with her. At first he threatens her reputation and her job, and before long he begins manipulating her family. But when Claire's husband makes an attempt to reconcile their marriage, Noah begins to show homicidal tendencies.

Characters never once behave as a human being might behave in a similar situation; they're each written and directed to move the plot. A character can turn from respectful and loving to hateful and accusing, just because the plot calls for it, not because it feels like an organic, emotional change.

As a result, the movie feels like it's filled with awful performances, not least of which is Guzman, from the Step Up films. Star Jennifer Lopez comes out the best, which is not saying much. Mainly she's posed wearing flattering outfits and flaunting soft hair. This kind of "deceptively charming neighbor" plot is used quite often in thrillers, and something like The Guest shows how it can work, but The Boy Next Door, along with last year's No Good Deed, is one of the worst examples.

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