One-and-a-half out of five stars
In "The Boy Next Door," Ryan Guzman plays Noah, a seemingly handy, intelligent, 19- or 20-year-old (it’s not clear exactly how old he is) who’s moved in next door to Jennifer Lopez’s Claire Peterson to help his sick uncle, who’s taken in Noah following the deaths of Noah’s parents the year before. We also find out Noah took some time off from high school and intends on finishing at the school where Claire teaches, and that her 17-year-old son, Kevin, also attends.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you know what eventually happens. Claire and Noah sleep together, though Claire immediately tells him it was a mistake -- at which point he becomes violently obsessed with her, and we’re treated to a reverse, 99-cent version of "Fatal Attraction."
If you’ve ever seen Ryan Guzman, the very notion that this 27-year-old actor would play a high school student seems like an idea for a comedy sketch. It’s like casting Keith Richards to play an Olympic gymnast. Also, Jennifer Lopez is a terrific entertainer but she’s only an adequate actress. In order for "The Boy Next Door" to work, she needs to be, at the very least, a good actress.
Director Rob Cohen is known more for duping audiences into believing unbelievable action sequences ("The Fast and the Furious," "xXx") than for believing unbelievable actors. In "The Boy Next Door," he needed to help us buy the idea of Lopez as the mother of a 17-year-old, an intellectual English literature high school teacher who’d be attracted to a student practically her own son’s age, and who would freely use the Yiddish word “schmutz” when describing dirt (maybe Lopez uses it in real life).
Absolutely none of this rings true, and that’s why "The Boy Next Door" comes off more as an inadvertent comedy than the thriller it’s supposed to be.