Here, at The Solute, we’ve gotten rid of the star system so we can talk freely about both the craft/construction/content of a film and the film’s ability to entertain without having to worry about films outranking each other on different levels. This allows us to treat an entertaining throw-off movie with the same respect (or disrespect) that we’d treat a masterpiece film. To be perfectly honest, the elimination of the star system is primarily for those occasional movies where the craft of the film is inversely proportional to the amount of pleasure we receive from the film. Such is the case with The Boy Next Door, a prime examplean extremely pleasurable movie that is otherwise indefensible.
Claire Peterson (J.Lo from the Block) recently separated from her husband Garrett. She constantly complains to her best friend Vicky (Kristen Chenowith) about her inability to move on. In an attempt to push Claire back into the dating scene as a newly anointed cougar, Vicky bestows her with a new pair of shoes: red leather stiletto sandals with a shiny gold-plated heel and a cow-print toe. They’re as stupid, classless, and tacky as they sound. When Noah (28-year-old hunk Ryan Guzman), the 20-year-old titular character who is also a senior in high school, sees them resting in their box on a table in front of Claire, he says “Those shoes are for people trying to be sexy.” Nevertheless, Claire tries them on before spying on the naked Noah undressing in his bedroom. Those stupid tacky shoes are the perfect symbol for The Boy Next Door, a movie so idiotic and trashy it ends up becomes a spectacle.
The Boy Next Door follows in the grand tradition of Fear and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle: a character engages in reckless pathological behavior to obtain an object of desire. The newly separated Claire lives with her very pale, hyper-allergic, friendless teenage son. Even though she’s trying to move on, she remains undecided between her cheater husband or an empowered lifestyle as a single mother. Noah, having just lost his parents in a car accident, moves in next door and becomes as obsessed with Claire as he is with Homer’s The Iliad. Much ogling of Noah happens before they spend a night together, followed by a lot of stalker behavior.
This is the ultimate Lifetime movie, delivering everything we could ever want in one high impact 100-minute film. Directed by Rob Cohen, The Boy Next Door has the same self-conscious admiration of trash cinema that he brought to The Fast and The Furious. Call the genre neo-Grindhouse, these movies condense the tropes we have consciously and subconsciously picked up from the ether into a compendium of garbagey goodness. It’s not that The Boy Next Door is dumb, it’s that it’s so self-consciously idiotic, entertaining because of and in spite of its own idiocy.
(Screenwriter) Barbara Curry and Rob Cohen think it is clever to have Noah think he’s clever when he says “I love your mom’s cookies” at tea time. As a first gift, Noah gives Claire a copy of The Iliad, to which Claire exclaims, “A first edition!” It thinks nothing of having a 28-year-old play a 20-year-old who is somehow a senior at the high school Claire teaches at; yet it thinks that a tryst between an older woman and a younger man is something to be afraid of. Still, even with the regressive ageist bias towards extra-marital affairs – Claire’s husband also cheated with his secretary, but that is totally forgivable, if only because the secretary probably never went on a stalker murderous affair – The Boy Next Door maintains a sense of how overblown and ridiculous it is being.
The idiocy of The Boy Next Door mainly comes from the terrible screenplay. Through the movie making, Cohen is constantly winking at the audience, even as he pushes the envelope and the taste level. Thus is the mystery of Rob Cohen. Dating back to his work as a producer on Mahogany and Thank God Its Friday to his mid-career directorial features of Daylight and The Skulls, Rob Cohen has consistently made trashy movies that nonetheless are entertaining despite themselves. While The Boy Next Door isn’t a movie to ponder over with any amount of seriousness, it’s a highly entertaining drive-in howler that deserves a cult audience.