The Boy Next Door Is What Every Lifetime Movie Wishes It Could Be

Here is what you need to know about The Boy Next Door, Rob Cohen’s erotic thriller in which Jennifer Lopez plays a suburban wife and mother (sure) who has a one-night fling with the world’s oldest high school senior: It is bad. But it is hilariously bad. In the first few minutes, Claire’s estranged husband gives their son a computer with a “triple processor,” and my friend leaned over to me and frantically whispered “Triple processors don’t exist. That’s not a thing.” That’s when I knew this was going to be something magical.

Plot-wise, The Boy Next Door sticks to all the standard tropes. JLo has sex with Boy Next Door Noah (Ryan Guzman). Guzman turns out to be loco bonkers. There’s a sassy best friend with a sassy best friend haircut, played by Kristin Chenoweth, and I bet you can guess what happens to her. There’s some cat-and-mouse, followed by a showdown. It’s all very ho-hum.

Not ho-hum, however, is the fact that this movie was apparently written by drunk squirrels with a none-too-firm grasp on those weird creatures called “humans.” For example:

  • They want us to believe that Noah is 19-year-old jailbait, when clearly he is a late-20s underwear model.
  • They want us to believe Claire’s son Kevin (Ian Nelson) is a bullied babynerd, when everything about him screams “perfectly coiffed, probably LA-based child actor.”
  • Speaking of Kevin, approximately an hour after Claire meets Noah, she tells him about how her son accidentally pissed himself on the playground that one time. No one thinks this is weird.
  • The drink squirrels think a reasonable response to someone cutting your breaks, leading to you and your son almost dying on a twisty mountain road, is to drive home, not report it to the police, and completely forget it happened. How do you even drive home when your breaks have been cut? Drunk squirrels think humanity is capable of wonderful things.
  • At one point Claire sobs that, if her affair with Noah is discovered, she’ll lose her family and her job. I’ll grant you that she’ll lose her job, because the school she works for has for some reason accepted the world’s oldest high school senior, but her son and her husband? She had an ill-advised one-night fling whist she and her husband were on a break, because he cheated on her. I think it’d be fine if people found out. HE’S STALKING YOUCALL THE COPS.
  • But the cops in this universe aren’t all that competent, at least judging by the way they’re completely OK with showing a rando off the street crucial evidence from a fatal car wreck, which they’ve kept in a nearby warehouse for years for… some reason.
  • Probably the same reason the school where Claire works has classes on boxing (which they’ll let a kid with debilitating asthma enroll in) and The Iliad, accepts transfer students without asking for records from their old school, and responds to a student beating another student half to death by expelling him and not having his arrested.
  • The requisite high school bully starts off a sick burn with the phrase “I was watching Turner Classic Movies last night, and…” Somewhere, the physical manifestation of the Criterion Collection is sitting in a corner, lovingly clutching its treasured Gigli DVD, and sobbing.

Everyone in this movie, and the movie itself, is stupid as shit. But it’s stupid in the weirdest fucking way, so you have to wonder whether first-time screenwriter Barbara Curry (I see nothing to indicate she’s not a drunk squirrel) was aware of the cheese she was laying down, foot-thick and with a trowel. There has to be some level of awareness here, because The Boy Next Door is not garden-variety bad. It’s “erotic-thriller-obsessed-with-Greek-mythology” bad.

Claire is a literature teacher with a permaboner for The Iliad, which Noah takes advantage of to get into her good graces. (Their conversation about it is hilariously English 101–“Achilles was a blowhard who shouldn’t have killed Hector, but–wait for it–he thought he was doing the right thing. Mind! Blown!”) The result is one of the movie’s funniest moments: Noah gifts Claire with a “first edition” copy of The Iliad, which, I’ll remind you, is an ancient Greek poem written thousands of years ago. There’s also my favorite line of dialogue of 2015 so far: “Dude, you gotta read The Iliad.”

Dude, you gotta read The Iliad!”

“Dude, you gotta read The Iliad!”

“Dude, you gotta read The Iliad!

It doesn’t stop there. Noah is pretty clearly a Oedipus analogue–he hates dads and wants to get jiggy jiggy jiggy with the local Hot Mom. And there’s the scene where Claire frantically searches for incriminating evidence of her night of illicit passion (“I have to find the video file!,” she thinks to herself, thoroughly not understanding how computers or the Internet work) and discovers it in a folder on Noah’s computer labelled “Achilles.” With it is information on the rest of his Evil Plottings, helpfully arranged into subfolders and given descriptive file names.

You could almost say the folder is his “Achilles heel.”

htcs_img2

And the final confrontation is honest-to-God a remix of the fight in The Odyssey between Odysseus and the Cyclops. I shit you not. I am not seeing things that are not there, as some sort of manifestation of my childhood obsession with the Armand Assante-starring Odyssey miniseries. Curry looked at that first draft and said, “You know what this needs? Gruesome mythology in-jokes.

Earlier in the film, Claire goes on a blind date with a guy who, when he finds out she teaches classics, reacts like this:

head explode

The intention is to make Noah look sophisticated by comparison–reminder, he is the guy who says this, which is the only thing that is vaguely high school about him:

i love your mother's cookies

…but the result was making Mr. “UGGGGGH, CLASSICS. I HATE BOOKS I HATE READING HURR DURR SHAKESPEARE WAS A WITCH” the movie’s standout character.

The Boy Next Door is not a good movie, and you should not spend money on it, but it is thoroughly enjoyable. Just surround yourself with some of your snarkiest Classics Major friends and expect very, very little.

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2 thoughts on “The Boy Next Door Is What Every Lifetime Movie Wishes It Could Be

    • An says:

      True, but no one who knows anything about gaming computers would use a “triple processor” or call it that. I laughed pretty hard when I heard that line. Nice research by thr screenwriter.

      Like

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