Unrated Version

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant
Director:  Luke Greenfield
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  109 Minutes
Release Date:  August 24, 2004

“Do these girls go to your school?”

“Um, no Mrs. Kidman…they’re porn stars.”


Film *

Elisha Cuthbert is some kind of beauty.  The moment she first strolls across the screen in The Girl Next Door just feels like one of those iconic movie moments in the making, like Bo Derek running in slow motion on the beach in 10.  And throughout the first half hour or so of the film, she’s photographed so luminously that I just sat and stared, and thought to myself that even if this turned out to be the stupidest movie ever, I wouldn’t mind.

By the end of the film?  I minded.

The Girl Next Door had all the ingredients for an attractive, fun romantic comedy, but no recipe to follow.  It’s too much of some things and not enough of others, leaving the viewers with bad overall tastes in their mouths.  It sometimes hints at sweetness before dousing you with mean-spiritedness.  It toys with romance before hitting you upside the head with the implausible.  It even teases you with the promise of overt sexuality, but damned if the filmmakers couldn’t even do THAT right.  What’s there is just enough to be slightly enticing, but done so badly as to be ultimately aggravating and annoying.

Matthew Kidman (Hirsch) is a senior in high school.  He’s class president, has recently been accepted to Georgetown University, and is hoping to earn a scholarship to pay for it by giving a speech on…ready for this?…moral fiber.  He’s the kind of sweet kid that’s always followed the straight and narrow path, and has been too unsure of himself to really try to live life to the fullest.

One night, he sees the beautiful Danielle (Cuthbert) next door, and is instantly smitten.  How will he ever meet her?  Well, he doesn’t have to worry about that…she catches him ogling her through her window while she’s undressing.

Instead of being mad, she gets a mild revenge in the most obvious way possible, but soon the two strike it up for real, as she begins to show him ways of having a little bit of dangerous fun.

In come his two goon friends with the surprise of Matthew’s life:  Danielle is a porn star!  Or at least an ex-porn star who’s trying to start life over.  Does the revelation taint Matthew’s view of her?  Well, of course, but at some point in there, the movie becomes less interested in exploring the dynamics of their relationship and more interested in ushering in seedier story aspects…like when Danielle’s sleazeball producer Kelly (Olyphant) shows up to try and bring her back into the fold of the adult entertainment industry.

His presence allows the movie to go where it otherwise couldn’t have, since Ms. Cuthbert refused to bare all for the camera…namely, to a porn movie convention in Las Vegas, a lap dance bar, and ultimately, to a new adult flick being filmed right at Matthew’s senior prom.  It’s all a bit over the top, very distracting from what came before, and overall quite unsatisfying.  It’s like the picture planted some promising seeds at the beginning but then urinated on them instead of watering them.

Some aspects are pretty unbelievable, to be sure, but others just downright defy all logic, like a bank teller giving away a large sum of money to someone whose name isn’t even on the account and has no ID.  Uh, huh.  Or the bait and switch with the prom porn movie, which stretches honesty to the point you can actually hear it snap.

The two lead stars have charm, but aren’t allowed to develop anything beyond the script’s ludicrous demands.  I liked them early on.  By the end, I just didn’t care anymore.  Happily ever after?  Beats me.  Ever happy is a better question.

Elisha Cuthbert captured the attention of America with her running stint as television’s loveliest damsel in distress on the hit series 24.  Watching the way she lights up a screen, I have no doubt she has it in her to be the next ‘it’ girl.  But she needs to pick her next project more carefully than this…one where hopefully the scriptwriter will love her as much as the cinematographer.  I’d love her to be my girl next door, but this film is enough to make me want to move.

Video ****

Fox’s anamorphic transfer is beautiful, with full natural coloring and clean, crisp images and detail from beginning to end.  Light scenes or dark, it doesn’t make a difference; compression, grain or artifacts never interfere with the viewing pleasure.

Audio ***

The 5.1 soundtrack is mostly dialogue oriented, but a great score of songs gives it some extra kick and dynamic range.  Tunes like “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie and “Lucky Man” by The Verve inject life into the picture at some of the points where it starts to flatline.

Features ***

The extras include 16 deleted/extended scenes, including the original ending, a gag reel, two featurettes including a making-of, a photo gallery, and some specific scene commentaries with Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert separately.


The Girl Next Door is a film that could have, and should have, but didn’t.  I used to think spending a couple of hours looking at the lovely Elisha would be enough to satisfy, but darn the critic in me, I just got too restless from the movie’s meandering, senselessness and lack of conviction.

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