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The Girl Next Door

by

debbie lynn elias

Eighteen year old Matthew Kidman is, okay, let's say it - borderline geek. Tow the line, straight A, over-achiever, boring, no social life. You get the picture. Enter Danielle, his new neighbor. The ideal vision of a Doris Day girl-next -door, Matthew is immediately smitten with Danielle (naturally after he sees her undress in front of her open bedroom window), but thanks to his less than average persona and social skills, has no idea how to approach her or make the first move.

Movie Image
Photo Copyright 20th Century Fox

Somehow nature takes its course and for whatever reason, Danielle finds that she has an attraction to Matthew thus relieving Matthew of his fear and awkwardness at approaching her. Their blossoming friendship turns into love, but soon hits a major stumbling lock when Matthew finds out Danielle is a porn star trying to get out of the business - maybe. Add another wrinkle - Matthew is trying to a scholarship to Georgetown University. Hmm, scandal with a porn star? Is this Georgetown material? Will Danielle choose porn over Matthew? Will Matthew choose Georgetown over the porn star and the greatest relationship and experience of his life?

Yep, we've got all the comedic angles of the sexual teen angst covered here in what is sure to become a classic in the teen genre movies. One of the freshest films since "Risky Business" when a guy named Cruise danced across the screen in his tidy-whities, "Girl Next Door" is fresh, funny and universally appealing thanks to director Luke Greenfield who romanticizes this slice-of-life look at teen romance with heartfelt comedic elan. (Hard to believe this is the same man responsible for Rob Schneider's "The Animal." )

Broken into two distinct segments that are artfully woven tegether, Greenfield spends the first half of the film concentrating on establishing our primary characters, their wishes, hopes, dreams, fears, using not only finger-on-the-pulse dialogue, but physical expression of the characters. Once the relationships are established and love is blooming, Greenfield then turns his attention to character growth and maturity - especially with Matthew. Sadly, the one big shortcoming of the film lies here as Danielle is merely relegated to the background while Matthew takes center stage.

Emile Hirsch steps up the plate as Matthew, giving a performance that shows potential as a next generation John Cusack, downtrodden, Lloyd Dobbler-esque everyman. While he more than capably carries off the sex jokes complete with embarrassment and let's face it, lust filled drooling over the girl next door, Hirsch gives an added dimension to the character that makes him identifiable to some part of each audience member. Elisha Cuthbert, who we first took note of in "Old School" is ideal as Danielle. A real stunner who more than adequately fills the role of a porn star, she has an innocent earthy quality and kindness about her that enables the Danielle-Matthew dynamic to work. Stepping in as Matthew's equally boring and geek-like friends, Eli and Klitz, are Chris Marquette and Paul Dano who never really take center stage but provide requisite buddy support when needed. The real casting coup, however, is Timothy Olyphant as Danielle's producer/boyfriend, Kelly. Sleazy, nasty, and underhanded, Olyphant steals every scene as he oozes nuances of deceit and sleaze at every turn.

Toss in a solid, right on point screenplay by Stuart Blumberg and "Van Wilder" veterans, David T. Wagner and Brent Goldberg and a pitch perfect soundtrack, and you've got a nice, well-rounded, albeit scantily clad, at times raucous, Generation Y classic. It is also worth noting that typically in films such as this, the technical aspects can fall a little short. Not so here given the slick cinematography of Jamie Anderson, not to mention the flowing continuity of Mark Livoisi's editing. Livoisi you may recall was responsible for "Vanilla Sky."

Despite the nudity and sexual hi-jinx, "Girl Next Door" is a creative delight with surprising insight and honesty that will make you laugh, make you smile and most of all, make you feel, all at the same time. And for you not quite total loser guys out there, it will give you the hope that you too, may be lucky enough to snag a porn star as your own girl next door.

Matthew: Emile Hirsch Danielle: Elisha Cuthbert Kelly: Timothy Olyphant Eli: Chris Marquette Klitz: Paul Dano

Directed by Luke Greenfield. Written by Stuart Blumberg, David Wagner and Brent Goldberg. A 20th Century Fox release. Rated R. (110 min)

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