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The Girl Next Door(2004)
Eighteen-year-old Matthew Kidman is a straight-arrow over-achiever who has never really lived life--until he falls for his beautiful and seemingly innocent neighbor, Danielle. When Matthew discovers that this perfect "girl next door" is a one-time porn star, his sheltered existence begins to spin out of control. Ultimately, Danielle helps Matthew emerge from his shell and discover that sometimes you have to risk everything for the person you love, as he simultaneously helps her rediscover her innocence.
For more about The Girl Next Door and The Girl Next Door Blu-ray release, see The Girl Next Door Blu-ray Review
Starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, James Remar, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano
Director: Luke Greenfield
» See full cast & crew
The Girl Next Door Blu-ray Review
“What’s the craziest thing you’ve done lately?”
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, September 3, 2009
If you're a guy and you grew up in the suburbs, you probably had one. You'd spot her sunbathing on the front lawn or walking to the pool with a strapless summer dress over her swimsuit. Perhaps she was a year or two older than you, with deep green eyes and impossibly long legs. Maybe she was your neighborhood crush, and to this day you regret not kissing her while you laid side by side watching 4th of July fireworks explode over the manicured fairway of the public golf course behind your house. Your very own girl next door. What would you do, then, if you found out that this teenage dream girl, your personal paragon of femininity, was secretly a porn star? That's the premise for The Girl Next Door, a film that manages to escape most of the trappings of its genre—the teen sex comedy—by letting the development of its characters take precedent over horny, physical humor. The story isn't exactly the most original—it's easy to see the boy meets call girl strains of Risky Business pervading the plot—but while The Girl Next Door definitely isn't as immediately iconic as the Tom Cruise classic, it's far more focused than the broad comedy of most teen sex farces, and it's sweeter than you might expect.
Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) is a high school senior, yearbook editor, and overall good kid— even single-handedly raising the money to bring a young Cambodian genius to study at his school. The trouble is, he's been such a good kid that he literally has no real memories of his high school "glory days." Having recently been accepted to Georgetown University—a school his parents can't afford—Matthew begins preparing a scholarship speech about "moral fiber" that will determine the course his young life will take. Academic pursuits take a back seat, however, when new girl Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) moves next door and Matthew spies her undressing in front of her bedroom window. After catching him in the act, Danielle forces Matthew to strip before the headlights of her VW Bug—it's only fair, right—and the two quickly develop a budding romance. Matthew falls in love because Danielle forces him out of his nebbish shell (I'm sure it doesn't hurt that she's smoking hot…), and in turn she has a thing for him because, well, she's an ex-porn star looking to get out of the cycle of objectification, and she likes the innocent way that Matthew looks at her. Of course, Matthew finds out about her sullied past, and while his two dorky pals Eli (Chris Marquette) and Klitz (with a K, Paul Dano) urge him to "bang her like a beast," Matthew can't bring himself to treat her that way. When Danielle's oily former producer Kelly (Tim Olyphant) shows up to drag her back to the "adult" world, Matthew and his pals have to travel to Vegas to get her back and, for reasons I'll leave unspoiled, must ultimately film a skin flick of their own—though the results are more educational than erotic.
While there are certainly a few raunchy riffs to be found, this isn't Road Trip or the latter American Pie movies, and I appreciate that The Girl Next Door never feels the need to resort to gross-out gags or seamy excess. Yes, there's some gratuitous nudity, but those hoping to catch a glimpse of Elisha Cuthbert au naturale might be disappointed, as the closest you'll get is some thong and a bit of side boob. The film realizes that the imagination— especially the teenage imagination—is a powerful thing, and The Girl Next Door is at her sexiest when you merely think she could be naked at any moment. Admittedly, though, the film walks a shaky moral line, alternately glorifying the porn world and chastising it for making women into objects that can be bought and sold by seedy producers. One minute Matthew is telling Danielle "I know who you really are, and you're better than this," and the next we're supposed to cheer for (and leer at) Danielle's giggly porn star friends. There's a definite thematic contradiction at play, but we're expected not to think too hard about it.
Still, the focus is on Matthew and Danielle's relationship, and as a teen romance, the film largely succeeds. Hirsch and Cuthbert have an immediate chemistry that's apparent anytime they stare longingly into one another's eyes, and despite a montage that compresses their getting-to-know- you stage into a few brief minutes, I found myself buying the ups and downs of their relationship. This is a film that will appeal to high school seniors and late 20-somethings alike, as that sense of nascent, almost dangerous sexuality is all too relevant for the teen crowd, and there's nothing more nostalgic for us older folks than the wild, heady abandon of that first young love.
After recently seeing Emile Hirsch as a grizzled Vietnam vet in Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock, it's initially a bit of a shock to see him so fresh-faced here. The same goes for Paul Dano. Between brilliant turns as a Nietzsche-loving mute in Little Miss Sunshine and a fiery, evangelical preacher in There Will Be Blood, it's strange to see him playing Klitz, a mop-haired teenage dweeb with a truly unfortunate name. The two are among my favorite young actors, and you can definitely see their bourgeoning talents on display in The Girl Next Door, a launching pad for both of their careers. Cuthbert also impresses, and it's surprising that she hasn't really gotten much work besides her recurring role as Jack Bauer's daughter on 24. She was 2004's Megan Fox, and as the titular girl next door she's warm, coy, and undeniably sexy. My favorite performance of the film, however, has to go to the totally batshit Timothy Olyphant, whose porn producer Kelly makes schizophrenic, split-second changes between big brother figure and manic, vengeful psychopath.
The Girl Next Door certainly has its flaws—it owes a big debt to Risky Business, has some implausible beats, and the last third is basically one misleading climax after another (including an actual climax, if you catch my drift)—but I found the movie immeasurably more likable than the other films with which it's inevitably lumped together. Apparently, the original script played out in broader strokes, like a more typical teen comedy, but director Luke Greenfield spent some time honing the story and giving it some heart. The extra love paid off, and while The Girl Next Door isn't the most original or entertaining teen romance to grace the screen, it's far better than most of the mindless, sex-fueled schlock that comes out— and promptly disappears—year after year.
The Girl Next Door Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Girl Next Door hit theaters in April of '04—a mere five years ago—but judging by the film's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, you might think the film was shot anytime between 1994 and 2000. Simply put, the movie looks older than its years, as it's neither as sharp, clean, nor detailed as you'd expect a post-millennial film—even a modestly budgeted comedy—to be. The film doesn't look bad per se, just dated. The first thing you'll notice is the grain that tends to swarm over not just darker shots, but even some brighter indoor scenes. Now, I'm all for a filmic, cinematic look—if a film was shot on film, I want it to look that way—but even I was distracted by some of the more splotchy, pulsating patches, where grain flickers with bouts of contrast wavering. While there are some punchy hues in the color palette—the vivid purples, pinks, and blues of the strip club and the Adult Film Convention come to mind—most of the film has a dull, slightly washed-out look that could benefit from deeper blacks and a bit of contrast tweaking. Outdoor, daytime scenes fare the best—like when Kelly comes to recruit girls at Matthew's high school—and it's only here that the film takes on a more crisp and modern appearance. Overall clarity is somewhat diminished by the occasionally heavy grain, and you'll notice a few softer-than-usual shots scattered throughout. I hesitate to be too harsh on the transfer—it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the film—but those looking to upgrade from the DVD may want to think twice if they expect a huge leap in picture quality.
The Girl Next Door Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Audio quality proves much better, however, as the film boasts a solid DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track that, while not incredibly active, only makes a few missteps. As this is a fairly talky drama/comedy (I still can't bring myself to use "dramedy."), you'd be correct in assuming there isn't much in the way of surround speaker engagement. Yes, there's some environmental ambience— splashes in the pool, party sounds—and even a few stocky pans and swooshes, but this track is definitely a front-centric affair. There are a handful of muffled and hollow-sounding lines, but most of the dialogue is balanced cleanly in the mix. Where the track really gets to prove itself is in the near-constant use of music. The film has an excellent soundtrack, featuring everyone from Elliott Smith, Mogwai, and N.E.R.D., to Queen, Marvin Gaye, Patti LaBelle, and the iconic intro of The Who's "Baba O'Riley." Bass response is tight and never overpowering, and while the track doesn't display the cleanest high-end, the mix certainly doesn't sound squashed.
The Girl Next Door Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary by Director Luke Greenfield
Greenfield turns in a pleasant, enthusiastic track that details the script development process, the challenges of making a teen sex comedy, and the uber-important aspect of proper casting. This is the same track that appears on the DVD release and, actually, there are no features exclusive to this HD upgrade.
The Eli Experience (SD, 7:57)
Chris Marquette goes to the real-life Adult Industry Expo and, with the help of former pro wrestler Matt "Horshu" Wiese, pulls a few pranks on some unsuspecting attendees. While there are one or two funny moments, you probably won't find yourself watching this bit more than once.
"A Look Next Door" (SD, 9:59)
This is basically a collection of routine, on-set interviews interspersed with clips from the film. Director Luke Greenfield talks about the casting process and some of the thematic content, and actors Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant, Paul Dano, Chris Marquette, and James Remar each offer up a few words about their characters and the film in general.
Gag Reel (SD, 2:47)
Here you'll find a typical series of flubbed lines, funny faces, and improvised moments—nothing really laugh-out-loud worthy, but worth a watch.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (SD, 10:58)
There are sixteen short deleted scenes, all available with optional commentary by director Luke Greenfield. "Cut for timing" is the phrase used most often here, as most of these scenes are little throwaway moments that were only tossed for pacing. A few of the snippets show a different side of the characters—like the "Regrets" scene—but there's really not much of interest. Hilariously, the original ending is included here—it features Emile Hirsch standing on the steps of the Capitol building—but they had to cut it because too many people confused the Capitol for the White House, and wondered how Matthew suddenly became president.
Scene Specific Commentary by Emile Hirsch (SD, 8:47)
Emile lends his thoughts to five scenes from the film, and though he doesn't really tell us anything new, his comments are warm and he seems like a genuinely nice guy. It's too bad he couldn't have teamed up with Elisha Cuthbert for a full-length commentary track.
Scene Specific Commentary by Elisha Cuthbert (SD, 12:47)
Likewise, Cuthbert overlays a few scenes with comments on rehearsals, costuming, working with the director, and making the decision to do some partial nudity for the film.
The Girl Next Door Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A teen sex comedy with heart is a rare thing indeed, and The Girl Next Door is far sweeter (and less lewd) than its gross-out cohorts. If you haven't seen the film, I'd recommend a rental— the material isn't for everyone—and for those that already own the DVD, the underwhelming visual upgrade may not sway you toward a double dip. If you've seen the film, liked it, and you don't have the DVD, however, the film's priced reasonably enough to warrant a purchase.
Blu-ray bundles with The Girl Next Door (2 bundles)
The Girl Next Door Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - September 1st - September 1, 2009
There is a bit of controversy with one of today's releases, so I'm just going to get this out of the way as quickly as possible to avoid any further distraction. While not a horrible presentation, the Blu-ray release of ‘Gladiator' does not live up to the promise ...
• Details Revealed for The Girl Next Door; High Crimes Blu-rays - July 1, 2009
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'The Girl Next Door' and 'High Crimes', which are both scheduled to hit store shelves on September 1st. 'The Girl Next Door' will come ...
• Girl Next Door, High Crimes Coming Up on Blu - May 27, 2009
In an early announcement to retailers, it has been revealed that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release two catalog movies on Blu-ray on September 1: the teen film 'The Girl Next Door', starring Elisha Cuthbert, and the courtroom thriller 'High Crimes', ...
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