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The Girl Next Door (November 6/04)

For a movie that deals so heavily with the world of pornography, The Girl Next Door is surprisingly tame. It's a love story, basically, between a shy teenager and a porn star - but there's nothing terribly salacious or sleazy about the way everything plays out. The script - by Stuart Blumberg, David Wagner, and Brent Goldberg - follows the usual romantic comedy formula, right down to the expected chain of events (ie boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, etc). And despite the occasional dark twist - most of which revolve around Timothy Olyphant's character - this remains an innocuous romp for teenagers.

The movie stars Emile Hirsch as Matthew Kidman, an "A" student who always does the responsible thing - even though he'd rather cut loose every now and then. Enter Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert), a vivacious former porn star who's just moved in next door. The two strike up a friendship which slowly leads into a relationship - until Matthew learns of Danielle's x-rated past. Making things worse is the emergence of a sleazy producer named Kelly (Timothy Olyphant) from Danielle's porn days, who wants his star performer to return to making films.

The Girl Next Door has been directed by Luke Greenfield, whose previous film was the Rob Schneider vehicle The Animal. To call this an improvement is an understatement (not that it would take all that much to top The Animal, of course). Greenfield imbues the movie with a light, poppy feel that suits the material nicely - though he doesn't fare quite as well in the more sinister sequences. As a result, there's a distinct feeling of unevenness running through the film (the darker second half doesn't really jive with the cute and inoffensive opening hour).

In terms of the performances, Hirsch is engaging as the film's hero, while Cuthbert does a nice job of keeping her character from becoming an all-out parody. But it's Olyphant who steals the show with his charismatic and slightly over-the-top performance, proving yet again that he's one of the very best young actors out there right now. The supporting cast features several recognizable faces in small roles, including James Remar as a porn king (he is, not surprisingly, completely believable in the part).

The Girl Next Door never quite becomes the classic coming-of-age story it seems to be aspiring for, but it's entertaining enough to warrant a mild recommendation (if only for Olyphant's hilarious performance).

out of

About the DVD: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment presents The Girl Next Door in both a rated and unrated edition; this review applies to the latter (though I couldn't detect any noticeable changes to the theatrical version). Bonus features include a commentary track, a subtitle trivia track, deleted scenes, a gag reel, photo gallery, and a featurette on the making of the film.