DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
GIRL NEXT DOOR, THE (director: Luke Greenfield; screenwriters: story and screenplay by David Wagner & Brent Goldberg/Stuart Blumberg; cinematographer: Jamie Anderson; editor: Mark Livolsi; music: Paul Haslinger; cast: Emile Hirsch (Matt Kidman), Elisha Cuthbert (Danielle), Timothy Olyphant (Kelly), James Remar (Hugo Posh), Chris Marquette (Eli), Paul Dano (Klitz), Timothy Bottoms (Mr. Kidman), Donna Bullock (Mrs. Kidman), Harris Laskawy (Dr. Salinger), Jacob Young (Hunter), Ulysses Lee (Samnang); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Harry Gittes/Charles Gordon/Marc Sternberg; 20th Century Fox; 2004)

 
"Just another thoughtless teen film."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It's not the worst romantic comedy teen film ever made, though it might qualify as one of the lamest. Filmmaker Luke Greenfield ("The Animal") reduces every adult character to either an idiot or a sleaze in this coming-of-age teen fantasy over sex with a porn star flick. Greenfield futilely attempts to update the 1983 Risky Business, the film which propelled Tom Cruise to stardom. For such thin material, it was unbearably long at 110 minutes. It lacked originality, class, or even a hint of a credible story. But, perhaps, its worst sin was being crass without being even a little bit funny. The filmmaker shunned any attempt at social satire and by sticking to limp dick jokes and peek-a-boo nudity and focusing on obnoxious characters with no redeeming qualities, Greenfield made it very difficult for me to sit through all the nonsense without squirming in my seat from boredom.

Matt Kidman (Emile Hirsch) is an ambitious senior in an Orange County, California, high school, whose career goal is to be the President. He has been accepted to prestigious Georgetown University and now hopes to win a scholarship based on a speech he's to give defining 'moral fiber' in competition with selected peers. Frustrated by not having a girlfriend and still a virgin and insulated from the wilder members of the fun-loving student body who reject him as a nerd, the 18-year-old hangs out with two other geeks in the same social misfit category, outspoken aspiring filmmaker Eli (Marquette) and Yale accepted but insecure weakling Klitz (Dano). Things suddenly change when Matt watches from his room his beautiful next door neighbor undress, who is house-sitting for an aunt. Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert, 24-year-old Canadian actress), who is a few years senior to Matt, catches him in the act and that begins a whirlwind romance that he could only dream about in his best fantasies. When Matt learns that the blonde bombshell is a porn star, the innocent kid has already fallen in love and placed her on a pedestal as something pure and special. He becomes so confused as to how to handle the new developments, that he takes her to a motel at the urging of his geek friends and goes after some of that booty. But this disappoints her that he's horny just like all the other squares not in the porn business--and she thereby rejects him. 

When Danielle quits the porn business to impress the kid that she's better than that after he shames her, this gets the attention of her ex-lover and porn executive boss Kelly (Timothy Olyphant). This prompts the reptilian Kelly to become Matt's mentor and give him pointers as to what goes for hipsterism wisdom, as he aims to slyly get Danielle back into the business and have some sporting fun at the expense of the kid. Olyphant brought some needed energy and guff to a weak premise that already imploded, as his sleazy mercurial performance of an almost likable villain was easy to take and was the best part of the film. 

When Matt owes the slick psychotic Kelly a bundle after convincing Danielle to drop out of the porn business (a predicament which needless to say makes no logical sense), Kelly gets his money back by stealing the bank account the politically active teen raised to bring a Cambodian genius high school student (Ulysses Lee) to America to study. To recover that stolen money, problem-solver Matt enlists the aid of Kelly's ex-partner in the porn business Hugo (James Remar) to be the backer of a soft-core porn film for the school's sex education program while Matt's geek friends do the filmmaking. The video becomes a hit across the country and the film cynically ends on a false happy note with Danielle and Matt back together, while Matt attends Georgetown no longer needing a scholarship to afford to go there. 

When all is over, there was nothing risky about all the naughty business attempted. It becomes just another thoughtless teen film. It could not balance its idea of the American Dream as a mixture of sweet virtue and love of pornography, and as a result only falls on its face by trying to be a lowbrow type of art film (if there is such an animal!). The film forgot about Cuthbert after the opening scenes, as she disappears from a good part of the film only to reappear at the end without a thing about her character revealed--though we do get a chance to check our her hot bod again.

REVIEWED ON 4/10/2004        GRADE: D

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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