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Overall Rating

Awesome: 30.3%
Worth A Look38.64%
Average: 15.15%
Pretty Bad: 7.58%
Total Crap: 8.33%

11 reviews, 66 user ratings

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Girl Next Door, The (2004)
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by Collin Souter

"Today's music ain't got the same soul"
2 stars

Many movies these days must forever live in the shadow of another. With the over-abundance of sequels and re-makes flooding the cinemas, the notion that a movie can stand on its own without having to suffer by comparison remains a lofty one at best. The recent, surprisingly well-made “Dawn of the Dead” will forever be compared to the superior Romero classic even though this new version can stand well on its own. Pick a sequel, any sequel, and try to dissect it without having to revert back to its origins. It’s inevitable. Many movies suffer only because they have the disadvantage of not being the original. Then, we have movies such as “The Girl Next Door,” which exists in and of itself, yet one can’t help but hold it up against a far superior work from 20+ years ago. Why?

Because the makers of this movie force those of us who have a clear memory of Paul Brickman’s “Risky Business” to constantly refer back to it every time we see something in the movie that rings familiar. I had heard rumblings very early on about the storyline of “The Girl Next Door” being very similar to “Risky Business,” but I tried not to think about it as I watched it. I wanted to take this film on its own merits and not have to use shorthand to describe a movie. Yet, at the same time I had been put off by its premise as I understood it from the trailer, that of a charming high school kid with a sweet smile who can save a porn star from herself. Still, I tried to keep in mind that trailers only serve as a taste test and I only look at critics’ star ratings and nothing else before I see a movie.

I couldn’t do it. Early on, we get a voice-over combined with Tangerine Dream-style music and fantasy sequences that turn into nightmares. Ten minutes in and I had the Tom Cruise movie playing in my head along with this one, like some picture-in-picture split screen comparison. As much as I tried to fight it, the movie wouldn’t let me. From the college acceptance sub-plot to the use of “Mannish Boy” later in the film, the two movies became inseparable. “What the fuck” becomes “Go with it.” The harsh statement about the underbelly of business turns into a half-baked sentence on the essence of politics. Both movies exist in the same moral universe, which is fine, but “The Girl Next Door” ends up cheapening its dark message by almost celebrating it, whereas “Risky Business” kept its appropriately somber tone in check right up to the final frame.

Joel Goodson becomes Matthew Kidman, played by Emile Hirsh, a fine young actor who has no trouble carrying this movie even if the material doesn’t quite deserve his talent. He deals with the same pressure of getting accepted into a major university and has to write and deliver a great speech before he can get in. The Girl Next Door, Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert), moves in and immediately casts Matthew under her spell without even saying a word to him. One night, he happens to look in her window and catches her in the act of taking off her clothes. She sees him and decides to pay him a visit right in front of his parents.

The two become friends. She loosens him up, but not before teaching him a lesson in voyeurism. Eager to use her as a prize pony, Matthew and his friends Eli (Chris Marquette) and Klitz (Paul Dano) attend a party hosted by one of the popular jocks at school. Of course, Matthew and his friends don’t fit in, but once everyone sees Matthew with Danielle, the rules change a bit. Of course, all the rules fly out the window once Matthew realizes that Danielle has a past in the world of pornography. He cannot possibly look at her in the same way again. He even tries to get her to agree on a night out in a cheap motel room. This ends up souring their relationship and the movie ends up becoming what I had feared it would be, that of a charming high school kid with a sweet smile saving the porn star from herself.

The writers of this movie seemed to have followed the “Risky Business” playbook by almost every sentence, except that the Porsche and the Egg have no substitutes here. Guido the Killer Pimp becomes Kelly (Timothy Olyphant), Danielle’s manager and slimeball. The hookers taking over Joel’s house in the 1983 film becomes something so completely far-fetched and bizarre here, one cannot possibly buy into it even as a piece of comedy. Strange, considering that this movie wants to tell us something about the “the real world” and how morally corrupt one must be in order to succeed in it, yet it gives us nothing to believe.

Put “Risky Business” aside for a moment. The character of Danielle has nothing going on. She moved into this suburb to try and start life anew away from the world of pornography. To do what? Where does she want to go? How and why did she get into that world to begin with? She virtually has no character arch to speak of. She arrives in the movie out of the porn world, she goes back and she comes back out, all thanks to Matthew and his sweet ways. “I know you,” he says. “And you’re better than this.” I would like to have known her as well, but instead I had to settle on a montage.

Speaking of which, the soundtrack to this movie, although terrific, is on overkill. Every single scene or situation gets punctuated with a song and, at times, they sound completely out of sync with the happenings (What’s going on with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” being in this film?). Director Luke Greenfield claims the songs existed in the script and that he often writes to music. Great, so do I, but trying to cram every tune from an “awesome Mix CD” into one movie can send a message that the director has little faith in the story and needs the music in order to sell it.

Even without the music, there’s not much worth buying here. The movie wants to prove it has intelligence, yet more often than not it settles on cheap, stupid laughs. We see Matthew take a hit of E before a crucial moment in his life. We get a stupid encounter with another porn star in a Vegas convention that turns predictably ugly. And we get a subplot involving a Cambodian exchange student. Scratch that: A WACKY Cambodian exchange student. The movie basically does everything wrong that “Risky Business” did right. I guess we should be thankful that Paul Brickman’s second film, “Men Don’t Leave,” remains in obscurity.

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originally posted: 04/16/04 13:43:09
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User Comments

1/08/16 David Hollingsworth creepily bad 2 stars
7/27/13 Joe Sucked! 2 stars
11/16/09 mr.mike I saw the TV-PG version on FX. 3 stars
6/02/08 ben dover jesus elisha cuthbert is the most fuckable chick on the planet 4 stars
6/01/08 james bollington worst film i have seen in ages. awful dialogue, 2d characters, confusing and absurd plot 1 stars
4/01/07 fools♫gold I just have to rate this to stress how ATROCIOUS it is! 1 stars
3/07/07 Frank Rountree Good movie, it really draws you into it. Great acting! 4 stars
2/22/07 Beau An excellent movie with brilliant cast, deserves a few awards i think, 'cuthbert' is amazin 5 stars
1/03/07 GasAttacK Elisha "Hotter than the Sun" Cuthbert plays a porn star turned girl next door; superb. 5 stars
11/11/06 David Pollastrini all the women in this film are hot! 3 stars
11/09/06 Dark Enchantress funny movie, and great boobies! 5 stars
8/05/06 nicklor24 funny and good film, check it out 5 stars
1/18/06 cody A cool teenage boy 's dream movie, with ok story ,cool songs,and what yet of a cast 4 stars
1/08/06 Zaw Damn, I can't believe I waited this long to see this flick!!!!! 5 stars
1/03/06 Wiseman I want a girl friend like her :+( 5 stars
12/15/05 Olan Munji entertaining enough 3 stars
11/24/05 cr a fun movie,ever young man dream , yet i felt a little cheated 3 stars
11/23/05 Sully Risky Business for the 2000's...Cuthbert had me hard all night long..... 4 stars
11/21/05 JN Excellent! This movie was great entertainment 5 stars
11/08/05 sudip bhowmik its a excellent film 5 stars
9/11/05 Nicholas Sheldon Underrated. The writing is top notch and Greenfield gives the film true depth. 5 stars
9/09/05 Ric Funny, smart, sweet, and sexy, it's the perfect teen comedy. 5 stars
6/13/05 Josh Camp Good movie.. I enjoyed it 5 stars
6/03/05 Kaitlyn Pierce sexy 5 stars
4/11/05 tristan Great cast, cool story, inpirational for geeks. 5 stars
3/31/05 christian its hot 5 stars
3/17/05 Naughty Devil Man If Elisha Cuthbert ever asked me to fuck her, I'd die of a coronary. 5 stars
2/21/05 xxplosive This is a very funny movie. 4 stars
2/14/05 WatsUp Good plot but a bit heavy for school kids. 3 stars
1/04/05 posse fuck those who doesn't enjoy this movie, chicks in here are totally awesome, esp. elisha 5 stars
11/21/04 Charlene Javier I'm not a horny teenage boy so I didn't enjoy this. 2 stars
11/05/04 creview Insightful, sharp, and stunningly well told. Far beyond the limits of the genre. 5 stars
11/01/04 Scenic1988 Elisha Cuthbert is the beatiful girl i've ever seen 5 stars
10/28/04 fordefisher Excellent movie with some very touching moments 5 stars
10/14/04 Justin Overall a great movie! Very truthfull 5 stars
9/17/04 y2mckay Well-written teen comedy with a likable cast - and of course Elisha, hotter than the sun. 4 stars
9/12/04 alfred zhou it is a exciting film,i am falled with the story,and saw two times in 24 huors 4 stars
9/06/04 Samuel one of the best comedies i've seen in quite some time... 5 stars
9/05/04 Titus For a teen flick, could be a lot worse. 4 stars
9/04/04 jeff ever wateched popular mecnics for kids?? knew she would be a hottie one grown up. 4 stars
9/04/04 paul hines one of the best films ive seen in a long while the story is so good great film 5 stars
8/27/04 Mike Stanbridge The concept and Cuthbert make this worth the money 4 stars
8/26/04 tatum Not bad, better than "Risky Business" 4 stars
8/26/04 David Frommer EricDSnider proves wiser than Roger Ebert, A.O. Scott with this excellent review. 5 stars
8/14/04 fyrebat this movie was hilarious 5 stars
7/17/04 legend Okay, I was sucked in by the trailers but it wasn't that bad. Funny film. 4 stars
6/30/04 Vinny Spinz THIS MOVIE ROCKED! Plus Elisha Cuthbert is SOOO Sexy, WORD 5 stars
5/28/04 Millie Maelstrom Great moral: A guy's a "faggott" unless he jumps at chance to fuck likely venerial cesspool 1 stars
5/21/04 Mermaid's Pedicurist Again, fartophobic EricDSnider likes many things mightily more obnoxious than farts. 3 stars
5/19/04 Priscilla Postlethwaite What smart guy would fall for girl who forced him to run down street naked? Dumb "comedy". 3 stars
5/03/04 Al Really Funny 5 stars
4/28/04 SIr Spam-a-lot Better thatn I expected 4 stars
4/28/04 Drew Immediately became one of my all time favorites!!! 5 stars
4/23/04 john wallace good comic relief...the shots of cuthbert are awesome....she is beautiful. 3 stars
4/19/04 maumau Emile Hirsche is so hot!! great step from the emperors club 5 stars
4/12/04 eyamxi very nice, loved the ending 5 stars
4/11/04 Wildcarde1 Im not big on comedies but i did have fun 4 stars
4/11/04 K As bad as Cabin Fever 1 stars
4/11/04 Ripoff Didn't I see this same movie when it was called "Risky Business"? Crap... 1 stars
4/11/04 ajay only saw it cause of the bitchslap review, and it was good. soundtrack's amazing. 4 stars
4/11/04 Michael Delightful, intelligent, sweet, and Timothy Olyphant scores another scene-stealing triumph 5 stars
4/07/04 Desperado great movie, funny as hell, and elisha cuthbert is the hottest thing on the planet 5 stars
4/05/04 lucas pornstars 5 stars
4/05/04 Ray Big deal 2 stars
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  09-Apr-2004 (R)
  DVD: 24-Aug-2004



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