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Published on February 24th, 2004 | by Erich Becker

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Review: The Girl Next Door

Since the debut of American Pie in 1999 the teenage-sex comedy has made a resounding comeback on movie screens, but the overflow of sequels, copy-cats, and parodies has left the genre in the same stagnate punch it was in at the end of the 1980s when such films were a dime a dozen. Now, 5 years since the original American Pie, and nearly 8 months after its successful, final, chapter FOX launches its latest entry into the crowded market in the form of The Girl Next Door, which may very well be the genre’s second wind.

The film is something different than the standard lose-your-virginity-on-prom-night-caper which has been so prevalent in the industry since we had our first slice of Pie. National Lampoon came back to life and delivered the uproarious Van Wilder, Sony decided to make fun of 20 years of these films with the mildly amusing Not Another Teen Movie, and DreamWorks put thirty-year-olds into the mix with the wholly original and entertaining, Old School.

Matthew (Emile Hursh) is the perfect student in school. He never ditches, he never misses class. While the football team is getting “service” from the cheerleaders he sits in his boring classes thinking about getting into Georgetown and working on the speech that will get him there. Everything is going fine for Matt until Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) moves in next door, and everything changes. Danielle, you see, is a “retired” porn actress who is trying to escape the life. Before Matt knows about Danielle’s previous life she opens up new doors for him, getting him to take risks, but after he knows about her past their relationships falls apart. When Kelly (Timothy Olyphant), Danielle’s producer returns to take her back to her old ways, she sees no reason to stay in suburbia.

The film does some things amazingly well, and others not so much. There are a few moments during the movie when events happen, but they really don’t. It would seem that Matt has a very overactive imagination and plays out events in his mind, then when the action takes a screwball left turn, everything flashes back to show it was only in his imagination. The old saying, “Fool me once, fool me twice…” comes into play here. The film also suffers from somewhat of an identity crisis throughout. There are times when it is a straight up comedy, others where it blends the line between humor and drama, and still others where the needle is completely on the drama side of the spectrum.

Still, all of those aspects don’t detract from the fact that the parts that are suppose to be funny are, and the parts that are suppose to be heartwarming are as well. Even with a film that feels like it has three different endings, you are still rewarded with an excellent film that, while not radically different from everything else out there, delivers a unique experience that you haven’t seen in a good many years. The originality of portions of the script is keenly evident by the dead-on performances from the cast, including Matt’s two friends Eli (Chris Marquette) and Klitz (Paul Dano) who bring some of the movie’s funniest jokes alive.

The Girl Next Door may be inadvertently shunned because of its cliché-looking storyline and characters, but once you commit to viewing the film you find it to be a dose of originality in a decaying genre (a phrase I’m overusing way too much). Whether your intentions are to see the beautiful Elisha Cuthbert, or to laugh your ass off for two hours you will find that the movie delivers on these promises, and even more. This film is definitely one of the best comedies of the year so far, and I don’t see that changing any time soon, after all, she is a porn star.

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About the Author

Thirty-something with a love of everything we cover here, and a few things we don't. Erich has run Entertainmentopia since the site's inception in 1999, countless redesigns, a few crashes, and a lot of media later, here you have it!



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