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The Girl Next Door: Unrated Version DVD Review

The Girl Next Door: Unrated Version

December 13, 2004

Director: Luke Greenfield,
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant, James Remar, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano, Timothy Bottoms, Richard Fancy, Donna Bullock, Sung Hi Lee, ,

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DVD Review

If the American Pie movies were a new Millennium reworking of the Porky’s films, then The Girl Next Door is Risky Business (1983) for the 21st Century. Whereas Risky Business was a reflection of the age of materialism that defined the 1980s, The Girl Next Door also represents its time by blending raunchy humour with romantic idealism. In a canny marketing ploy, Fox has released two versions of The Girl Next Door: the theatrical version and a slightly longer, unrated version with a bit more nudity included.

Matthew Kidman (Hirsch) is a high school senior who dreams of one day going into politics. He looks at his upcoming yearbook entry and realizes that he hasn’t done anything memorable during his stint in school. He has always played it safe and by the rules. Matthew secretly yearns to be a part of the popular crowd that gets to party all the time. However, he lacks the courage and the conviction to do anything daring because he doesn’t want to ruin his carefully cultivated future.

This all changes when Danielle (Cuthbert), a beautiful young woman, moves next door. That night he watches her undress from his bedroom window and becomes totally infatuated. They meet, get to talking and gradually fall in love as she coaxes him out of his shell. The only problem? It turns out that she’s an adult film actress.

The Girl Next Door is a basic male fantasy: gorgeous girl moves next door and falls in love with a young man. The obvious models for this movie are Risky Business with a helping of American Pie (1999). Like Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise), Matthew lives in an affluent, middle class suburb and is being groomed for the corporate business world. In both films, their respective lives are turned upside down by a beautiful woman who has sex for money. Both Joel and Matthew are also menaced by the woman’s dangerous pimp/ex-boyfriend. Unlike Risky Business, Girl Next Door has a much sweeter, innocent tone than the decidedly darker vibe of Cruise’s movie.

The film works so well because of the genuine chemistry between Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert that makes their romance believable. She’s attracted to his sweetness and innocence and he is initially attracted to her stunning looks but loves her for who she really is. Hirsch does a fine job of conveying Matthew’s awkward, conservative innocence. Cuthbert, free from the constraints of her small role in the TV show, 24, exudes just the right amount of confidence and sexy charisma. It doesn’t hurt that she looks stunning, with her captivating eyes and friendly smile. However, Danielle is more than a simple male fantasy. She is savvy and not afraid to call Matthew on his prejudices, forcing him to think about his entire belief system once he finds out that she’s a porn star. As their characters fall in love, a strong emotional bond develops between them and this is conveyed by the way they look at each other and through their body language.

Timothy Olyphant is in the Guido the Killer Pimp role as Kelly, Danielle’s ex-boyfriend and adult film producer. He seems to be, at times, channeling his edgy drug dealer character from Go (1999) mixed with a young Jack Nicholson and a bit of Jim Carrey. Olyphant moves through the movie with an ease and confidence that comes from an actor who is totally having a blast with his wild character. There’s a memorable scene where he impresses a trio of high school girls in front of Matthew and his friends. Of course, he is also scoping them out as potential “actresses” for his next movie.

Special Features:

The first disc features an audio commentary by the film’s director, Luke Greenfield. He wanted to recreate the high school experience for an audience that was of that age or much older. He also talks about the lengths he went to make sure the audience identified with Matthew and his point-of-view. Greenfield does a fine job of analyzing his own movie and explaining the autobiographical elements.

Also included is the “Trivia Track: Revealing the Girl Next Door” with the occasional factoid popping up in the corners of the screen. However, they are mostly statistical in nature (i.e. “More than 60% of people believe in love at first sight.”).

The second disc contains the bulk of the supplemental material. First up, is the “Scene Specific Commentary by Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert.” He comments on four scenes while she talks over five. Hirsch felt that the music helped sell the chemistry between him and Cuthbert, and praises director Greenfield’s “strong vision.” Cuthbert speaks rather eloquently (and with good humour) about how she did not want to do full-on nudity and how she worked with Greenfield on making changes to the script so that her character was tougher (like Angelina Jolie) and not so one-dimensional.

“The Eli Experience” is a mock-featurette hosted by Christopher Marquette and follows his character (who has now become a porn film mogul) around.

“A Look Next Door” is a pretty standard Making Of featurette that mixes interview soundbites from the cast and crew with behind-the-scenes footage.

Another standard feature, the “Gag Reel,” is included and features lots of blown lines, pratfalls and other hi-jinks that occurred during filming. Mildly amusing.

There are also 16 deleted and extended scenes with an optional commentary track by Greenfield. Many were cut for reasons of time or pacing but there are a few that should have been put back into the movie, including a longer version of the limo love scene that Greenfield prefers because it was more emotional but the studio nixed it because they felt that it was “too real.”

Rounding out the disc is a “Stills Gallery” with production photos and a couple of trailers for the movie and for two other Fox films.

While there are many similarities between The Girl Next Door and Risky Business, the former has much more heart than the latter. There is a sincere sweetness to this movie that Risky Business lacks. Again, this is indicative of the times each film was made in. However, The Girl Next Door is superior in one very significant way: the idealized woman is actually given some depth and dimension and isn’t merely a sex object that fuels the man’s fantasy as in Risky Business.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 89%

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