'The Boy Next Door': What the Critics Are Saying
Universal's creepy-neighbor thriller stars Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Kristen Chenoweth and John Corbett.
The Boy Next Door stars Jennifer Lopez as a conflicted woman who gets romantically involved with her young neighbor, Ryan Guzman — a tryst with creepy and complicated consequences. Rob Cohen directed the Universal-distributed R-rated thriller, also featuring Kristin Chenoweth and John Corbett. Lopez also produced the microbudget movie, made for four million dollars and shot within 23 days.
See what top critics are saying about The Boy Next Door:
The Hollywood Reporter's Sheri Linden says it offers "some guilty-pleasure thrills and laughs, while falling way short of its potential on both the dramatic and the camp fronts." Though free of "any real sense of naughty indulgence" or nuance, Cohen "avoids sex-scene clichés and gives the encounter, and much of what follows, energy. ... Cohen doesn’t belabor things, delivering a concise and good-looking genre piece, and making the most of a microbudget." However, Randy Edelman and Nathan Barr's excellent score ratchets up the dread. If only that high-tension music played against less obvious action and dialogue." And Guzman's Noah "quickly turns into a one-note character" opposite Lopez's "far more complex" Claire, and Barbara Curry's screenplay "settles into ordinary thriller territory way too soon."
Time's Daniel D’Addario stresses it "is not meant to be good. But its release should be applauded nonetheless. ... What makes The Boy Next Door important is its subject matter and casting: It’s an explicitly commercial film focused on the (bizarrely unrealistic) life of a middle-aged woman," noting that this year's female-led Oscar-nominated films were not given major theatrical rollouts. Its "depiction of a woman who’s capable of making mistakes without allowing them to define her is orders of magnitude more sophisticated than viewers should expect. If we want better movies about women, we have to start with movies about women in the first place. ... Lopez’s new project represents an earnest attempt to capitalize on a very real public hunger to see a woman at the center of a mainstream movie — not an indie, but an old-fashioned popcorn flick."
USA Today's Claudia Puig gives it two-and-a-half stars out of four, calling it "Fatal Attraction for the digital age. ... Predictable and foolishly unsuspecting characters react in ways that make you want to shake them. But there's an undeniable sense of silly fun in this erotic thriller." She calls the tryst "tastefully steamy, with plenty of camera time devoted to Lopez and Guzman's toned bods and her black lacy underthings." Lopez "is believably powerful in moments of physical conflict. But she's unconvincing as a teacher. She gets top marks for grooming, however." And "Chenoweth brings some knowing humor to the role of Claire's best friend." Altogether, "while not exactly an inventive story, the movie is a diverting guilty pleasure, laden with eye candy and familiar thrills."
Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips calls it "a ridonculous thriller. ... As written by Curry and directed, competently but without much energy, by Cohen, the affair is a fraught and joyless occasion for a montage of body parts in low light. Composer Edelman and Barr's sinister-orgasm theme sets the mood for instantaneous regret, even before Noah gets clingy and violent and then serial-killy. I wish The Boy Next Door were a different, zingier sort of mediocrity, but whenever it threatens to go the full Zalman King Two Moon Junction route, it pulls back and behaves itself and settles for a grindingly predictable series of escalations."
The Guardian's Jordan Hoffman writes, "Other than one crafty camera move that boasts a gloriously ridiculous 'he’s hiding behind the potted plant' reveal, there isn’t much of a visual stamp on the whole picture. It feels rushed, bland and cheap. ... The Boy Next Door is bad, but it isn’t THAT bad. It isn’t Showgirls bad, which really is a pity. ... Those who delight in seeing our cultural divas in any state of dramatic extreme will have a great time, but for a would-be cult classic, this could have been much more."