Published on April 9th, 2004 | by Jay Richardson0
The Girl Next Door
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano, Timothy Olyphant, James Remar
An adolescent boy’s fantasy, The Girl Next Door is never as bad as you fear it could be, some mild twists and appealing turns from its two young leads rendering it better than watchable. Emile Hirsch, with something of the young Leonardo Di Caprio about him, is Matthew, a play-it-safe nerd who dreams of being the next president, his role model (appropriately, as it turns out), JFK. A high achiever, Matthew loses the plot when Danielle (24’s Elisha Cuthbert) moves in next door, immediately smitten by the seductive blonde bombshell.
As the two become closer, he in infatuation, her, initially at least, in charmed amusement, Matthew becomes more spontaneous and the envy of both the high school jocks and his two horny friends, Eli (Chris Marquette) and Klitz (Paul Dano). But when smut connoisseur Eli finds a tape of Danielle revealing her career as a porn star, Matthew is caught between lust and affection, creating a rift in their relationship that allows her pimpish ex Kelly (Timothy Olyphant) to come between them. Cold shouldered, Matthew tries in vain to win back the girl who loved him for (sometimes) not seeing her (solely) as a sex object. Naturally, this leads to the three boys attending a Las Vegas adult movies convention, Kelly stealing $30,000 Matthew had saved for a Cambodian genius and a prom finale directed by Eli starring adult movie stars.
A morality tale on true love versus capitalism, The Girl Next Door never quite gets beyond titillating the camera with Cuthbert, never less than sexy as both knowing woman of the world and doe-eye sweetheart, but compelling screen presence that she is, never portrayed as anything other than a prize to be won. Certainly, her aspirations extend no further than some vague desire to attend college, a notion swiftly lost amidst the sea of hormones on screen. Hersh is also likeable in his progression from swot to JFK/Hugh Hefner hybrid, and the lupine Olyphant’s arrival definitely perks things up. But though there’s some nice cracks at the expense of sex ed films, there’s actually very little risqué about this film and the porn convention seems shoe-horned in purely to maintain its target audience’s interest. A good looking film, The Girl Next Door remains limp in the final analysis.