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Fast as you can say “Eddie Haskell,” poor Claire (played by Jennifer Lopez) is battling a home invader with mommy issues that would strike even Dr. Phil speechless.

Universal Pictures

1 out of 4 stars

Title
The Boy Next Door
Written by
Barbara Curry
Directed by
Rob Cohen
Starring
Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman and Kristin Chenoweth
Country
USA
Language
English

As fatal movie booty calls go, the one answered by Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) in the rousingly cheesy The Boy Next Door is a doozy.

No sooner has this maritally maltreated high school classics teacher succumbed to the breathy ministrations of the ab-alicious neighbour's nephew Noah (Ryan Guzman) who has unstuck more than her garage door, than she's the Michael Douglas of the soccer mom set.

Fast as you can say "Eddie Haskell," poor Claire is battling a home invader with mommy issues that would strike even Dr. Phil speechless. By the time this dubious gender-switch bad-date thriller has run its rote route, throats will be slashed, eyes will be poked, fires will be lit, and classrooms adorned with copious screen shots of the big bang.

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But you might well be heartily entertained, especially if your tastes tilt toward the toxic junk variety, and (even better) if someone else has ponied up for the price of admission. (Best scenario: if that boyfriend you've been meaning to dump has provided the tickets.) The one thing about The Boy Next Door, which was written by Barbara Curry and directed by the light-touch, sensitive-guy perpetrator (Rob Cohen) of a few delicate Vin Diesel and Sylvester Stallone spectacles, is that it isn't just bad and ridiculous, it's fulsomely, wholeheartedly and right down-to-its-DNA bad and ridiculous. It commits, in other words, and follows through on its every idiot promise. If it were The Bachelor, there would be riots to marry it on the beach.

Where to start? Would it be with the movie's hilarious notion of a high school teacher, which consists of having Claire quote Homer's The Iliad and then melting when the silver-tongued stud arrives with what's described as "a first edition" volume of the book that he found "in a garage sale"? Or might it be the woman's-eye view of the object of desire, which consists of gauzy body-double insert shots of biceps, buns and burnished washboard bellyscapes? How about the almost stupefyingly generic, rubber-stamp prime-time TV hunk that is Ryan Guzman's Noah, a guy about as convincingly menacing as he is convincingly "teenaged." Might it be the weirdly unreal visual texture of Lopez's skin, which seems to have been digitally retouched to resemble a fresh batch of butterscotch pudding? Or, lest we forget, the truly innovative repurposing of an EpiPen as an attention-getting optical accessory? Or possibly just the general configuration of poor Claire as a woman who just can't be punished enough for indulging in a little next-door nookie after her dull-as-dishwater husband (John Corbett) owns up to double-dipping with a younger woman siren calling him from San Francisco? Time was, Lopez (an executive producer, for God's sake) was a shotgun-toting, leather-skirted, hot-as-a-pistol force to be reckoned with in movies such as Out of Sight. Here she's reduced to dressing up in heels and lingerie and peeping through windows at the Calvin Klein kid stripping for bedtime. Feminism? What feminism?

Essentially a bottom-of-the-bill drive-in flick in an era that no longer has double-bills or drive-ins, The Boy Next Door might once have provided an irresistible opportunity for stealth pop-cultural subversion in the hands of a director who knew how to properly make a budget-conscious meal out of a thick slab of stale cheese. In that movie, Lopez might have actually taken some ownership of her actions, flushed her shame down the toilet, grabbed the nearest shotgun and refused to be bullied into docile bovine submission simply for getting some well-deserved sideline action over the back fence. Here, she bakes cookies, suffers her husband's serial hound-dogging, puts up with her son's petulance, and topples for the first psycho Gap-ad refugee who comes along, fixes her garage door, drops his drawers and quotes Homer. We've come a long way, baby.

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