When I first saw the trailers and TV spots for The Girl Next Door, I thought they were trying to pull a Jerry Maguire on us. It looked like a chick flick that they tried to also market for guys. In Jerry Maguire, they used the sports angle. In this movie, they use porn. What guy doesn't like sports or porn? Even with this shrewd cross-over marketing, I still wasn't sure what to make of this movie. The ads bill it as a comedy for a new generation. Well kids, it really is, and then some.
The movie starts out with a bunch of high-school seniors writing down their memories of high school. Everyone seems to have many memories, but Matt (Hirsch) can't think of anything. He's the class president, bound for Georgetown, but he's not exactly the most popular kid in school. But that all starts to change when Danielle (Cuthbert) moves in next door. So young Matt, enamored with the young beauty, falls for her big-time, only to find out her previous occupation: porn star.
The movie kind of has a Weird Science feel to it, with a hot chick making an un-popular kid popular. This kind of thing has been done many times before, but what sets The Girl Next Door apart is how they push the envelope of the formula, while still basically adhering to it. One of the only problems with the movie is that they maybe push it too far in some parts. There is a lot going on in the movie, and it seems to crawl in parts. But the performances and the story more than make up for it. The story could've been a tad more condensed, but it's very good anyway.
There are many marvelous performances in this movie. Elisha Cuthbert, best known as Kiefer Sutherland's daughter in the hit TV show "24", gives a simply wonderful performance here. She has some great range here as Danielle and her performance is heartfelt, authentic, playful and endearing. This performance will make her a household name, folks, mark my words! Emile Hirsch, best known for...well, nothing really, gives a great performance as well, showing a very nice transformation of character from beginning to end. This should also make a household name out of Hirsch as well. Timothy Olyphant, best known for giving great performances in box-office bombs (See: Dreamcatcher, A Man Apart), gives a very nice supporting performance as Kelly, Danielle's porn producer. He's incredibly quirky with touches of violence and sporadic behavior that really seems to fit his character. But my favorite performance of all comes from Chris Marquette, who steals the show as Eli, an porn-obsessed teen. He is just hilarious, folks, providing nearly all of the movie's comic relief, and bringing us a new catch phrase, "Learn to like it." He is, as they say, "off the hook" and I'll definitely be looking forward to whatever he takes on next.
The script, written by Van Wilder scribes David Wagner and Brent Goldberg along with Stuart Blumberg, is nicely done. I thought Van Wilder was a nice, accurate portryal of college life, and I think they create the same, relaistic environment for high school as well. I didn't really like how busy they tried to make the movie, but it is all worked out rather nicely, with some great little twists towards the end. The dialogue is very nice and the characters are colorful and unique. The script just needed to be a little shorter. The movie's runtime is 110 minutes but it could've easily been 100 or even 90 minutes long. But, I digress...
Director Luke Greenfield doesn't exactly have a resume that instills confidence in moviegoers (See: The Animal). But he shines in this movie, bringing out some amazing performances from his cast and tying the whole movie together very nicely. He simply just does a great job with this movie.
The Girl Next Door is a movie about what happens when a porn star comes a knockin on your door. It's funny and sweet, touching and daring. This is a wonderful movie for everyone, with star-making performances by Marquette and Hirsch, and a breakthrough performance from Cuthbert that will likely do for her what Clueless did for Alicia Silverstone. This is just a must-see movie that is probably the most fun I've had at the movies all year so far.