The Girl Next Door (2004)


The Girl Next Door (2004) Review

It's been said that opposites attract, and in The Girl Next Door, those opposites just happen to be a high school student body president and a porn star. Interesting combination; I guess love has no boundaries. Though their relationship may stretch the limits of the old saying, they're drawn to each other partially because each one desires a bit of the other's life.

Matthew (Emile Hirsch) is at the top of his class, has recently been accepted to Georgetown University, and is readying himself for a career in politics. He's also preparing to deliver a speech (on morality, ironically) that could earn him a prestigious scholarship. Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) wants a break from her job in the Los Angeles porn industry, and is housesitting for her aunt who lives next door to Matthew. She's also hiding out from her producer, ex-boyfriend Kelly (Timothy Olyphant) who nets $30,000 for each film she makes. Matthew wants to be cool like the school jocks that cut class and ditch school; Danielle wants to get the college education she never had and live a normal, suburban existence. They're perfect for each other, right?

They're perfect only if you're able to buy into the complete fantasy-world premise of The Girl Next Door. When Danielle shows up at Matthew's door, after he catches a peek of her undressing, his parents insist he show Danielle around the town. If she's really in town to start over, why wouldn't Matthew's voyeurism offend her? Danielle recognizes that he's a bit inexperienced and uncomfortable around her, so she makes him strip off all his clothes in the middle of the street. Later, the pair takes a dip in Matthew's principal's pool while he is home having a dinner party. Quickly he goes from cautious geek to risk-taking rebel! Matthew's clearly in love, but Danielle is tougher to figure out - is she just messing with him, or does she feel something too?

Apparently she feels something. When Matthew finds out she's a porn star, and takes her to a cheap motel, an offended Danielle walks off and heads to Las Vegas with Kelly to attend a porn convention. Matthew and his two nerdy friends rush to Vegas to find Danielle and try to bring her back home. The underage boys (they look about 16) are surprisingly able to get into the convention, where they masquerade as adult film directors. Their escapades are taken to the extreme when they go to a party and cause a bar fight. What about Matthew's noble intentions for the trip?

But despite all of the film's faults, enough to rip Girl to pieces, I actually enjoyed the movie enough to recommend it! I was pleasantly surprised with how often it made me laugh, especially in the first half of the film as Matthew transitions from the shy class president to the rebel he's only dreamed of becoming. And we empathize with him as he struggles over his sexuality and awkwardness with Danielle. We laugh at his most embarrassing moments because most of us have experienced similar things growing up. Even though the film pokes fun at our sexuality, the intelligent screenplay doesn't degenerate into the typically crude gross-out humor you might expect from a film about teenagers and porn stars.

The spark that sets the film in motion lapses a little in the film's second half where its one joke stretches a little too far. New subplots involving stolen money, a foreign exchange student and an adult film award are all introduced with little effect. Yet just in time, an outrageously funny conclusion merges Matthew and Danielle's worlds. Relative unknown actor Hirsch is highly convincing as the uneasy Matthew. A more experienced actor in the same part would have taken away from the role's authentic feel. Cuthbert is just plain hot, and as the qualifying factor for an adult film actress, she fits the bill. It's difficult to take your eyes off her.

The Girl Next Door shares a strong resemblance with Risky Business, though it's certainly not in the same league. The R rating may prevent some high schoolers from seeing Girl, but for the rest of us who can remember that time in our lives, an amusing and not so moral adventure is in store.

The new unrated edition DVD includes a bit more skin plus 16 deleted scenes (including the original ending), a gag reel, director commentary and pop-up trivia tracks, selected scene commentary from Cuthbert and Hirsch, and a pair of cute making-of featurettes.

Yeah, next door... wonder what they're having for dinner?

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