Review: ‘The Girl Next Door’

Real teenagers. Real controversy. Real funny.

Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) is a high school senior who has dreams of Georgetown and becoming President of the United States. On the verge of graduating without having broken a single rule (or having any fun doing so), Matthew falls for Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert), a slightly older young lady who’s moved in next door. While Danielle seems inexplicably smitten with Matthew, his sexually frustrated buddies drop a bomb on his romance: Danielle is actually a porn star.

The Girl Next Door makes no secrets as to its inspiration: Risky Business. From the moment Danielle whispers, “What are we going to do about this?” you half expect her to finish the sentence by adding, “Joel?” Even the music seems to have been briefly imported from 1983. To grasp the story, exchange the word ‘prostitution’ for ‘porn industry’ and the similarities to Business are uncanny. Fortunately, an additional rewrite adds an extra dimension to the film, one that transforms it into a rare thing: a smart teen sex comedy that?€™s as good as advertised.

Knowing its source material, the film manages to find its stride by pushing each scene to what appears to be an obvious conclusion, and then twists off in a new direction. The creators reportedly took a much more fantastic script and wisely decided to ground it in reality, so at no time does anything look impossible or too far-fetched. Instead of a mediocre teen sex romp as unnecessary as American Pie 2, The Girl Next Door emerges as a smart comedy with a soul merely packaged as teen sex romp, and the trailers do an incredible job of keeping up the ruse to maximize the films’ surprises.

Emile Hirsch may not be the next Tom Cruise, but he looks the part of a well-rounded adolescent that wouldn’t do the wrong thing while still convincing us there?€™s nothing he couldn’t do if he put his mind to it. Elisha Cuthbert (taking time off of television’s “24”) does a fine job looking like eye candy but projecting something more underneath. Timothy Olyphant steals scenes playing a slick promoter putting pressure on Matthew for giving Danielle “bad ideas.” The rest of the cast is made up of teens; it’s always a good sign having real teenagers in your teen comedy rather than twenty-somethings (or thirty-somethings!) trying to look and act like high school students again.

The Girl Next Door earns every bit of its R-rating, and it?€™s nice to see a film embrace that rating rather than hack a film into Scooby Doo just because the MPAA won’t give it a PG-13. The film establishes early on that Matthew has a pretty vivid imagination, so vivid that audiences have to wonder if what they saw really just happened or not. But to make sure studios keep making movies as entertaining as this, those audiences have but a ticket first, so vote for this Presidential hopeful and his senior-year adventure by purchasing a ticket. Besides, how can a movie that has minions be bad?

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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