The Girl Next Door review by Mike Long

Despite some of the great strides made by women in Hollywood, the film industry is still dominated by men, so it's not surprising that many films are little more than adolescent-male fantasies. These movies often involve action or sex scenarios which are broad and exaggerated. The Girl Next Door may be the ultimate example of this genre as this is one of the most unrealistic movies that I've ever seen and because of the film's outlandish manner, it should be placed in the science-fiction section of the video store.

Emile Hirsch stars in The Girl Next Door as high-school senior Matthew Kidman. Matthew is the president of his class and has been accepted to Georgetown University. He often feels left out of the "normal" high school activities of his peers, but thinks this is a necessity in order to achieve his goals. Aside from his geeky friends Eli (Chris Marquette) and Klitz (Paul Dano), Matthew doesn't have much of a life. This all changes when a mysterious girl named Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) moves in next door. Matthew befriends Danielle is immediately taken by her zest for life and her brash, unabashed nature. Matthew begins to become infatuated with her and starts to ignore his other duties. All of this is turned upside-down when Eli (who is addicted to porn) shows Matthew an adult film which contains an actress who looks exactly like Danielle. Can Matthew's new-found love be a porn actress? The truth of this matter becomes evident when the dangerous Kelly (Timothy Olyphant), a porn producer, comes to town. Matthew is unsure how to react to this news about Danielle and soon finds his life sliding out of control.

Despite heavy promotion, The Girl Next Door opened at #10 at the box office and quickly left theaters. Upon seeing the film, one will realize why this happened, as The Girl Next Door is one of the most unfocused and misguided films that I've ever seen. Essentially the movie is an updated version of the Tom Cruise film Risky Business. But even as far-fetched as that movie was, it's nothing compared to the bombastic nature of The Girl Next Door. The movie starts out on firm, if unoriginal, footing, as we meet the upstanding young man who then meets the dangerous young woman. But from there, the movie branches out into far too many directions, as it brings in Kelly, a porn mogul, a foreign-exchange student, a scholarship banquet, and several other things. Of these elements, only the part of the movie involving Timothy Olyphant is remotely interesting, as he appears to be channeling Jack Nicholson, with a manic energy that is often mixed with a laid-back "I"m comfortable in any situation" attitude. (At times, he seems to be in a totally different film from the other actors.) At 100+ minutes, the movie is way too long, and director Luke Greenfield never seems to have control of the action.

Along with the scattershot nature of the film, one has to wonder exactly who this film was aimed at. Truth be told, the film would probably appeal to 13-year old boys, but the R-rating signifies that it's not for them. And while I'm not so naive that I don't think teenage boys are unaware of porn films, the idea of a film which is clearly aimed at teens being about the world of porn is somewhat disturbing. This serves as a jumping off point for the film to go into truly unbelievable territory where teenagers can get into strip clubs and adult film conventions without being carded. Each moment of the film becomes more unrealistic than the last, and only the most desperate viewer will be hanging on until the end. The oddest thing about the film is the lack of any true sex-appeal or sexuality in the movie, especially considering that it's about a porn actress. The film is being released onto DVD in both an R-rated and an unrated version. The unrated version (which I viewed for this review) runs some 9-mintues longer than the R-rated cut (which I haven't seen), but it contains very little nudity (mostly glimpsed in a porn film) and despite the misleading cover art, Cuthbert is never naked. The Girl Next Door takes a somewhat interesting idea and somehow manages to suck any redeeming qualities out of it. My advice is to move away from this girl.

The Girl Next Door moves onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer is quite impressive, as the image is very sharp and clear, showing no distortion and virtually no grain. The image is never soft and artifacting is kept to a minimum. The colors look very good and the picture has a great deal of depth. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides a nice aural presentation for the film. The dialogue is always clear and audible and the film's rock-music score sounds very good. Surround sound effects come through with musical cues and crowd noises and there are even a few subwoofer effects scattered throughout the film.

The Girl Next Door DVD contains many extras. Director Luke Greenfield provides an interesting audio commentary on the movie side of this 2-sided disc. His comments about the actors are interesting, as are some of his personal asides about how autobiographical the film is. But, his assertions that he tried to make the film realistic grow very tiresome. This side of the DVD also contains an option entitled "Feature Trivia Track: Revealing The Girl Next Door". This option enables "Pop-up Video"-like graphics to appear on-screen which contain nuggets of trivia about the film and other random thoughts.

The remainder of the extras can be found on the other side of the disc. "A Look Next Door" (10 minutes) is a standard making-of featurettes which contains comments from the cast and crew as well as some behind-the-scenes footage. Actors Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert provide scene-specific commentary on a few scenes. These were recorded separately, as Hirsch discusses 4 scenes, and Cuthbert talks about 5. These talks have some interesting info, most notably the swimming pool scene. "The Eli Experience" (8 minutes) is a truly odd addition, as actor Chris Marquette goes to the Adult Video News Awards and pretends to be a porn celebrity, complete with entourage. This fools people into seeking his autograph and volunteering for mock auditions. This segment is just like an episode of "Punk'd" -- it's not funny. The DVD contains 16 deleted and extended scenes, many of which are brief, throw-away moments, although the ridiculous original ending would have actually been perfectly aligned with the far-fetched nature of the movie. These scenes can be watched with optional commentary by Greenfield and there is a "Play All" feature. The extras are rounded out by a 3-minute gag reel, a still gallery, and a trailer for The Girl Next Door, which is letterboxed at 1.85:1. The trailer is interesting, as it shows the confused nature of the film, as it appears to be a teenage sex comedy and a thriller rolled into one. But, the movie is never funny or thrilling.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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