The Girl Next Door
Grade: C
Year: 2004
Director: Luke Greenfield
Writers: David Wagner & Brent Goldberg
Genre: Comedy
Rated: R
By Scott Spicciati

So this kid Matthew (Emile Hirsch) has his life figured out. He's senior class president and plans to attend Georgetown after graduation. All looks good but Matt and his buddies, Yale-bound Klitz (Paul Dano) and Eli (Chris Marquette) aren't the coolest kids on campus. That's all about to change when the girl next door moves in.

The girl's name is Danielle, a gorgeous too-good-to-be-true blonde babe who's window is but a few yards away from Matthew's. That night he's talking on the phone with Eli when he notices Danielle stripping off her clothes for bed. To Matt's horror she turns and catches his peeping eyes. When she goes over to meet Matt's parents a few minutes later, they enthusiastically encourage him to take her out for the evening. When he does, we lean how wild "the girl next door" truly is.

Danielle is played by Elisha Cuthbert, the stunningly beautiful actress from TV's "24," last year's "Old School," and had a brief appearance in her best film yet, "Love Actually." The movie depends on her beauty, and I can't wait to read the scathing remarks from the female Internet critics who despise good looking actresses for whatever personal reason. But even I got a little tired of the camera's constant slow-motion panning of her body; every time she walks and every time she just stands there. She also unzips her shirt a lot to reveal ogle-inducing cleavage.

Cuthbert doesn't have a nude scene; I know that's bad news for many readers, but even I must admit that because we don't see any more skin than what's revealed in the trailers, her character is almost shallow. She's supposed to be a porn star, yet Emile Hirsch is the one we see running down the street without any clothes on. It's hard to sympathize with Danielle who's looking for a way out of the porn business. With everyone else getting naked so often it's hard for us to encourage her to find a better life because we don't see a problem with her lifestyle.

I'm thinking maybe Cuthbert wasn't the right actress for this role. Someone more daring perhaps, but it's clear the filmmakers were only going for a hot chick to drive in the 17+ male crowd. I'm sure Cuthbert will succeed in that, but it's so silly to see her give off this sexual prowess and hide behind tricky camera angles at the last second while her costars go for the glory.

So what's Danielle's motive to begin with? The film doesn't help us much in that area, but she makes it clear that she wants to get Matt to do things "he would have never done before." Does she become attracted to him? Of course. Would that ever happen in the real world? Sorry Peter Parker.

Despite the film's absurdity I was able to tolerate "The Girl Next Door" until the character named Kelly (Timothy Olyphant) appeared. As Danielle's producer, Kelly is the unintentionally funny "rough and tough" bad dude with slick hair and a vintage car. The movie proves how cool he is by showing how all the girls go bug-eyed when he visits Matt's school, offering them the opportunity to be photographed. What teenage girl wouldn't want to be photographed by a greasy porn producer?

Kelly is of course the film's obligatory villain and will show up when we least expect him. Is it possible for an imposter to withdraw money from a bank by pretending to be someone else? Would any teen's parents open the door to a 30-year-old stranger who claims to be his "friend"? Or maybe I'm just asking too many questions.

To the movie's credit, I found myself laughing more than I ever expected to, but none of the film's funny moments lasted more than a few frames. A scene would start and the momentum would build only to fall short like a stalled car that can't quite turn over.

The funniest parts of the film come when Matt's friends are on camera. The earlier dialogue was written surprisingly well and I think that's why I enjoyed some of these characters. Sure we've seen these character-types before but I couldn't help but find their serious approach to everything entertaining.

The high number of f-words is exactly what you would expect to hear from a high school conversation. Sadly, along with the plot, the dialogue suffers greatly in the second half of the film like so many other movies that can't finish what it started.

The movie -- for what it is -- is too long at the two-hour mark. The payoff is unsatisfying and what turns out to be the final product invalidates almost everything that happens during the big prom scene. Would they have really gone through that big effort just to make a…well, you'll find out.

Possibly the worst tagline of the year; "The Girl Next Door" asks us, 'Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?' While it is funny at random parts with good dialogue in the first half, I would have rather saved the two hours and a mind-numbing conclusion by getting my juice from the grocery store.

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