The Girl Next Door

Another forgettable entry in the annals of teen comedy history.

Released in 2004, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 28 Apr 2004 by Scott Morris
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Ah, teen comedies. Holding sway over the four points of the multiplex before the studios break out the big blockbusting guns and another forty odd comic book translations, these specimens generally contain hormone addled youngsters gurning for the benefit of other hormone addled youngsters, The Girl Next Door doesn't do much to distinguish itself from the herd but doesn't disgrace itself either.

Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) is a standard issue straight A student sans life, who's beginning to worry that the joys of life are passing him by. Given that what passes for 'fun' in these movies amounts to the football team driving around in a pickup truck screaming 'Woooo!', I'm not so sure he needs to worry too much, but what do I know. Ahyhoo, Matt goes about his usual studious, responsible scholastic duties but life takes a more interesting turn when the titular Girl Next Door moves in.

Elisha Cuthbert in this film has no relationship to Jack Bauer, so for once she isn't immediately kidnapped by Mormon militants demanding the return of Glen Michael's Cartoon Cavalcade or any other ludicrous scrape. She takes the role of Danielle, who makes an immediate impact on Matthew after she spies him spying on her, even if it was more of a chance glance than serious stalk. She's just such a strong willed and sassy individual, don'tcha know.

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Matt's ever watchful friends Eli (Chris Marquette) and Klitz (Paul 'Bookem' Dano) discover an interesting titbit - Danielle has starred in several porn films. This rather upsets the flowering love affair between Matt and Dannielle, especially after Matt is convinced to take advantage of the presumed slutty true nature of Danielle. From this she gets the crazy idea that she'll never be able to change her spots and goes back under the wing of the incredibly sleazy porn producer Kelly (Timothy Olyphant), a man physically incapable of hitting on any and every woman that enters his sphere of influence.

Matt decides to rescue Danielle from a fate worse than syphilis, and everyone realises the true nature of their character and the importance of self-belief and all of the usual moral claptrap that somehow eeks its way into the script in ways that aren't terribly innovative but not terrifically offensive either.

The problem with The Girl Next Door is exactly the problem I have writing about it - there's no real difference between it and any number of other films of this ilk released this year, let alone the last decade. It doesn't say anything new and as such it's difficult to say something interesting about it. Not that this is an unsurmountable barrier to creating a decent film, and there are moments where The Girl Next Door is indeed a decent little film.

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Just not enough of them. Timothy Olyphant gives a damn funny performance, although he's very much a fringe character. Eli knocks a few decent lines into the box but the scriptwriters seem to have forgotten to have Matthew finish them off. Indeed, were this a football match it'd probably be Partick Thistle vs. Stenhousemuir; a few spots of interest but largely defined by mediocrity. The sad fact is that the central story in flat, uninspired, predictable and bland.

Emile Hirsch plays the awkward kid with an awkward performance, suitable but rather lacking in the necessary charisma to connect with an audience in ay meaningful way. Elisha Cuthbert is certainly pretty. We already knew that though, and there's nothing else on display here to stretch her range in anyway. Neither of the two leads do a bad job as such, but they've nothing inspiring to work with and it's reflected in some vanilla flavoured performances. It's unlikely to be looked back on as a high point in either's career, but similarly I doubt they'll ever be regarded as a career scarring blight.

Without wanting to be overly harsh on a film that makes no great claim to being the greatest thing since bread was sliced, there's nothing much to recommend The Girl Next Door as anything other than the staple supply of teen cinema. It's mildly entertaining for the demographic; who are largely there as it's somewhere to have a furtive fumble out of the rain. For the majority of people who've seen this film umpteen times before, just played with different actors and going by a different name, there's no pressing need to see it again.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks.

Luke Greenfield
Cast list:
Emile Hirsch (Matthew Kidman)
Elisha Cuthbert (Danielle)
Timothy Olyphant (Kelly)
James Remar (Hugo Posh)
Chris Marquette (Eli)
Paul Dano (Klitz)
Timothy Bottoms (Mr. Kidman)