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GIRL NEXT DOOR, THE

SYNOPSIS:
When beautiful young Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) moves in to house sit next door to square old 18 year young Matthew (Emile Hirsch), he thinks fate has delivered the right girl - right to his door. Until he learns she is a retiring (as in exiting) porn star, but by then it's too late and he's in love. Their opposite worlds give them little in common, especially when Danielle's ex, and her porn producer, Kelly (Timothy Olyphant), shows up wanting her back at work.

Review by Louise Keller:
The freshest romantic comedy of the year, The Girl Next Door is the kind of teen movie that appeals to the teen inside all of us. An original idea fleshed out into a terrific script becomes a winner largely due to the engaging performances of its two central characters. Emile Hirsch's boy scout student council president has all the charm of Leonardo DiCaprio-like Dustin Hoffman from The Graduate, and Elisha Cuthbert's worldly porn star is a stunner as she searches for her lost innocence.

Placing earnest high school students into the world of porn stars offers a wonderful juxtaposition, and although the situations are milked for all they're worth, reality is never far away. When Matthew spies his mystery girl undressing through the window, we also feel as though we are peeping where we shouldn't. And when she turns around and catches his gaze, we too feel as though we have been caught out. These are the moments that are very real, and rely on Hirsch's appeal. There's a sweet irony about the film's title; after all, there's absolutely nothing girl-next-door-like about Danielle.

Impressive direction from Luke Greenfield (The Animal) in this, his second feature film, contains the comedy, never allowing it to gross-out or go down the road where American Pie did not fear to tread. The Girl Next Door is more like Risky Business, which propelled Tom Cruise into the limelight in 1983.

There are plenty of funny moments, and Greenfield adds edge to the film by introducing some fantasy segments, so we begin to wonder what is real and what is not. Chris Marquette and Paul Dano are terrific as Matthew's two geeky friends Eli ('bang her like a beast ') and Klitz ('oh dude, oh dude'), while Timothy Olyphant's Kelly is reminiscent of a deranged Jim Carrey with hair that looks as though it had been plugged into an electric current. I like the scene when Matthew runs into his high school principal at a sleazy strip club; who would have thought that it possible to converse about moral fibre while having a lap-dance?

The storyline may go a little awry towards the end with a robbery, a giant gold penis, a dirty-tongued red parrot and a misadventure with an ecstasy tablet, but all's well that ends well, and the film genuinely has enough heart to overlook any bumps. An uplifting film that jolts you to a state of happy being, The Girl Next Door is juice that's worth the squeeze.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I went to media previews of Shrek 2 and The Girl Next Door eight days apart. Eight days and several worlds, to be frank. In the former, Hollywood distinguishes itself with decency and heart, humour and courage, not to mention tons of talent. In the latter, Hollywood gives itself a bad name with a tawdry attempt at teenage comedy that is both dishonest and squalid. Not to mention lack of talent. I'm not talking about acting talent, which doesn't amount to a hill of beans if the screenplay is empty, heartless and manipulative. The film is so plastic you can slide right out of it without feeling a thing.

The characters are created in a cheap lab; Matthew, a decent, innocent 18 year old high school student meets Danielle, a temporary girl next door, a worldly wise 19 year old porn star. Her producer, a 30 something entrepreneur (using the word pejoratively) was also once her lover. Is this a teenage comedy? What's funny about the ramifications of that?

Not funny, nor particularly well observed, the screenplay is tortuous: I'm sure I spent three hours in there.

The worst aspect of the film is how Danielle is written: she has at least two personalities, which are trotted out to fit the screenplay bill. Elisha Cuthbert is excused on the grounds of being used, but director Luke Greenfield stands guilty of falsifying character. And making a dull movie, which is far worse, confused by its genre label and its content.

In trying to capture reality in this scenario, Greenfield and his scriptwriters make some tragic mistakes, starting with the lack of reality in Matthew's home. Everything about this place is false, from cardboard parents to the scene in which he spies on Danielle undressing. This is so phoney I thought I heard the screen groan.

The forced ebullience of Matthew's dorky friends and the claptrap fantasy sequences add to the film's woes. I feel sorry for the cast, especially the two leads and the entertaining Timothy Olyphant, who makes porn-producing Kelly the best thing in the film, full of Jack Nicholson-like edge and humour rolled into one explosive package. Except he's not allowed to explode, damn it!



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

GIRL NEXT DOOR, THE (MA)
(US, 2004)

CAST: Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant, James Remar, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano, Timothy Bottoms, Donna Bullock

PRODUCER: Harry Gittes, Charles Gordon, Marc Sternberg,

DIRECTOR: Luke Greenfield

SCRIPT: David Wagner, Brent Goldberg, Stuart Blumberg

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jamie Anderson

EDITOR: Mark Livolsi

MUSIC: Paul Haslinger

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen J. Lineweaver

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 26, 2004

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: December 22, 2004







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