FILM REVIEW WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER/For Digital First Media
The news is awash with headlines about female high school teachers, who have sex with their underaged students. “The Boy Next Door” involves one such wayward teacher.
Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) teaches the classics at her local suburban high school. She discovers that her husband, Garrett (John Corbett), repeatedly committed adultery during his business trips to San Francisco. Claire just doesn’t trust him anymore, so he moves out.
Claire is left to raise her son, Kevin (Ian Nelson), as a single mom. He’s a puny asthmatic and is often bullied by his classmates. During one asthmatic incident, Kevin had became incontinent. He still bears the unfortunate nickname “Whizzer” and bears the cruel taunts of his classmates. Adding to Kevin’s woes is the fact that he attends James Monroe High School, where his mom teaches. Awkward!
One day, a hunky new arrival to the neighborhood, Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman), wanders over to introduce himself. He is the nephew of an old codger (Jack Wallace), who lives next door. Both of Noah’s parents have recently been killed in an auto accident. Now, he’s come to live with his uncle. However, his wheelchair bound uncle is about to be hospitalized at a nearby V.A. hospital. Noah will be living all alone without any adult supervision.
As Noah demonstrates, he is mechanically gifted. He fixes Claire’s malfunctioning automatic garage door opener for her.
As it turns out, Noah is about to become a transfer student at James Monroe High School. What’s more, he shares Claire’s penchant for the classic literature, particularly Homer’s “Iliad.” Noah fancies himself in the mold of Achilles, the virtually invulnerable Greek warrior.
Wow — Claire has a next door neighbor, who doesn’t protest that the “Iliad” is all Greek to them. She invites Noah over for dinner. Afterwards, Noah volunteers to help wash the dinner dishes. However, Claire ignores the clear Eddie Haskell alert.
Meanwhile, Noah becomes chummy with Kevin, a social pariah, who is yearning for a strong male role model. Noah becomes a regular dinner guest at the Peterson household.
One night, Claire stares out her bedroom window and sees Noah undressed. Stripped down in all his naked glory, she can’t help but notice that he sports six-pack abs and demonstrably firm gluteals.
As we see in one acrimonious dinner scene, Claire has trouble on the dating scene. When one of her dates dares to express reservations about the practical value of the classics on the modern job market, she flips out on the poor guy. Poor lonely Claire. In the wake of her husband’s infidelity, she is still aching with vulnerability.
One night, Claire wanders over to Noah’s house. Is she going to discuss the classics or look at his etchings? One thing leads to another. The two start smooching and the clothes begin peeling off. Claire unconvincingly protests that what’s happening is not a great idea. She apparently figured that one out on her own even without consulting her BFF and school vice-principal, Vicky Lansing (Kristin Chenoweth). However, Claire failed to anticipate the consequences of her lusty lapse with a student, who is also-hello-a friend of her son’s.
The handsome and socially poised Noah is also sexually active with some of his receptive female classmates. This includes a stunning blonde, Allie Callahan (Lexi Atkins), who is regarded as the school’s best looking gal. Nevertheless, the film posits that Noah remains obsessed with Claire. He wants to continue his amorous relationship with Claire, even though she now insists on terminating it. Shades of “Fatal Attraction.”
The film is full of laugh out loud moments. Unfortunately, none of these were anticipated by the film’s screenwriter, Barbara Curry. The prosecutor-turned screenwriter seems oblivious to how ludicrous her overwrought dialogue and plot devices are. They repeatedly had me in stitches.
For a megastar like Lopez, “The Boy Next Door” has a shockingly small budget of $4 million and was shot on a mere 25 days. This certainly isn’t some art house gem, just a quintessential B-film. The film’s mini-budget and rushed schedule become evident in the meretricious production values.
“The Boy Next Door” is being marketed as a standard erotic thriller. However unintentional, it works best as an uproarious parody of that genre. Chocked full of laugh out loud moments, “The Boy Next Door” is one of the funniest comedies of this new year.
“The Boy Next Door” ** R (for violence, sexual content/nudity and language) 91 minutes
Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.