UNIVERSAL PICTURES Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman play Claire Peterson and Noah Sandborn in “The Boy Next Door,” a film that tests the bounds between love and obsession.
UNIVERSAL PICTURES
Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman play Claire Peterson and Noah Sandborn in “The Boy Next Door,” a film that tests the bounds between love and obsession.

★★★☆☆

As far as psychological thrillers go, “The Boy Next Door” does not offer any novel interpretations to the story of a love affair gone wrong. Instead, it reads like a watered down “Fatal Attraction” and certainly follows the predictable formula of love-turned-obsessive films of its kind. All this aside, its attractive cast and their surprisingly intense acting, which includes Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman’s passionate flirtation, will undoubtedly succeed in drawing big crowds.

The film opens with a high school classics teacher, Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez), who is still adjusting to her separation from her adulterous husband, Garrett (John Corbett). With Garrett gone, Claire’s life is missing that dream-like, brawny beau — that is, until Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman) enters the picture. Noah moves in next door to Claire and her son, Kevin (Ian Nelson), to take care of his ailing uncle and it doesn’t take long for him to win the trust of Kevin and the lustful eyes of Claire.
Noah seems to have it all. He’s strong (he saves Claire from being overpowered by a garage door), he’s handy (he fixes cars, of course), he’s smart (he shares Claire’s love of literature and the classics), and he’s loyal (he immediately bonds with and becomes protective of Kevin). Noticing each of these attributes, as well as Noah’s coquetry, Claire gives into his advances and they consummate the relationship. However, this one-night stand proves to be a long-term nightmare for Claire.

Cue the transformation of the forward lover into the obsessive stalker. Yet, one of the redemptive aspects of the film is Guzman’s portrayal of this rather formulaic character. His intense, unnerving performance periodically shocks the audience and yet, he still manages to look good the entire time. Guzman commits to being the demented, emotionally and physically abusive pursuer to the point where the audience momentarily questions whether the movie will actually end as most psychological thrillers do with the demise of the villain.
Unfortunately for Lopez, the power of Guzman’s performance overshadows hers at times. That being said, Lopez still plays the morally torn (and then perpetually terrified) object of affection quite well. This is Lopez’s first movie role since her 2013 acting job in “Parker” with Jason Statham and it is certainly a far cry from her “Maid in Manhattan” days.

The movie will potentially receive a lot of flak for Claire Peterson’s complicated relationship with a seemingly underaged boy. Even the title “The Boy Next Door” alludes to this fact and thus, the corrupt and promiscuous nature of Claire. In reality, Noah turns out to be 20 years old and therefore, not a minor, at least in the eyes of the law. But to complicate the situation further is the fact that Claire becomes Noah’s teacher after their one-night liaison; this is sure to spark some controversy based on the illegality and general condemnation of student-teacher relationships.

While some critics will be concerned by the glazing over of Claire’s transgression and the predictable casting of two good-looking celebrities for the lead characters, this Hollywood movie does have its redeeming moments of plot depth and character development.

Directed by Rob Cohen (“Fast and the Furious,” “Stealth”), the film certainly features its share of graphic and violent scenes. Just when you think certain characters have had enough, there is always more punch to be packed. The final scene, in particular, is a fitting climax to the overall tension built throughout the movie, and Barbara Curry shows herself to be a rather pretty creative and twisted writer.
This movie is worth seeing primarily for its twists of eroticism and obsession. That being said, just as the magnitude of certain scenes is one of the movie’s biggest attractions, it is also one of its biggest drawbacks. These scenes are so graphic and mesmerizing that subsequent scenes and more subtle plot points simply to pale in comparison.

In general, “The Boy Next Door” hits many of the marks of traditional psychological thrillers. The main characters honor their crazy and tragic origins, allegiances are formed and broken, signs of affection lead to jarring realizations, and the simple request for help to prevent this chaos is virtually nonexistent. Add in the occasional witty and sexual one-liners and you’ve got a movie that may not be the first of its kind nor the best, but it is one that will certainly attract moviegoers.

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