Whatever else it accomplishes, “The Boy Next Door,” in which Jennifer Lopez plays a high school teacher who falls for the title character, will probably make people forget “Gigli” (2003).
It will also make them laugh. Intentionally or not, director Rob Cohen (“Alex Cross”) has put together the most hilarious camp classic since “White House Down” (2013).
“The Boy Next Door” also teaches a lesson. Not that a married woman (OK, she’s been separated for nine months) sleeping with a 19-year-old stud deserves whatever she gets. Everybody knows that. More important, it teaches the pernicious effect that Greek literature has on a young person’s behavior. Forget violent video games — have you read the “Iliad”?
Noah (Ryan Guzman) has. He’s the boy next door. He appears out of nowhere, his brawny arm jutting into the frame to help Lopez’s Claire open a balky garage door. When he learns that Claire teaches “the classics” at the local high school, he wants to sign up. “Homer is my favorite!” he says. “Achilles is a total badass!”
He befriends Kevin (Ian Nelson), Claire’s noodle of a son, teaching him how to pick up girls, repair an alternator, throw a punch, and shoot a .45. He warns him not to believe the lies of his adulterous father, Garrett (John Corbett), when dad tries to wheedle back into the family. Claire, meanwhile, has taken to looking at Noah at night when stands by the window and takes his shirt off. . .
Well, nine months is a long time. And Noah is persistent. Everybody makes mistakes, right? Like her husband. But when she tries to let Noah off easy, she awakens the wrath of Achilles.
That’s 20 minutes into the film. For over an hour Noah just gets crazier and crazier, stalking Claire, hacking her computer, turning her son against her, fracturing somebody’s skull, assaulting the assistant principal. In his mind, he believes that he’s a hero — not like Garrett, an old fart who cheats on a beautiful woman like Claire. A woman Noah adores. Whom he will never leave.
You’d think at some point they’d call the police. Or do a Google search on the kid. Find out why he is 19 and still in high school and what really happened to his parents. They might find out that he is what they call in the psychology business a crazy person. A narcissist with lethal martial arts skills. In possession of handguns. A walking, oedipal time bomb.
Ah yes, “Oedipus the King,” another of Noah’s favorites. He writes a quote from the play in giant letters on the blackboard after he has decorated Claire’s classroom with hundreds of Xeroxed copies of pictures he secretly took while they engaged in their extracurricular activities.
Keep Oedipus in mind [SPOILERS!] when this tragi-comedy reaches its catastrophe in a stable full of sharp metal objects, ropes, and a can of gasoline. It makes “Fatal Attraction” look like Ingmar Bergman.
Is Rob Cohen, a Hollywood veteran with 40 years of experience, serious? Maybe he’s in on the joke. He does include an off-color, winking reference to “The Wiz, which he produced, in 1978. It doesn’t matter. “The Boy Next Door” may end up as one of the worst movies of 2015, but it is also one of the most entertaining.Peter Keough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.