The Girl Next Door
Directed by Luke Greenfield
Written by Stuart Blumberg, David T. Wagner, Brent Goldberg
Starring Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert


The Girl Next Door

"The Girl Next Door" plays like a pastiche of every coming-of-age teen comedy ever made, with special attention given to "Ferris Bueller" and "Risky Business." It's the story of Matt (Emile Hirsch), lovable, shy and geeky high-school senior on his way to Georgetown but who needs to win a scholarship to get there, who meets Danielle, the stunning new girl next door (Elisha Cuthbert) and falls under her spell. But his two friends Eli and Klitz (Chris Marquette and Paul Dano) - "His name is Klitz?" she asks. "With a K," he says - committed porn aficionados, spot her in one of their videos. A porn queen! Horrors! Gotta break up, right? But wait; her evil old film producer/pimp Kelly (Timothy Olyphant) wants to blackmail her back into the game, so the boys must go to Las Vegas, to the Adult Film Convention, to win her back for Matt.

There's more, including the theft of the Golden Penis award from the home of a competitor of Kelly's, and what should have been a John Hughes-type comic climax, when Matt takes Danielle to the Senior Prom and stages a porn scene with the school's obnoxious jocks for Eli's video camera, that will get Kelly off their backs and raise enough money for Matt's school-service project.

The problem is, there's almost too much that's been shoehorned into the film; it keeps turning serious, then backing away into standard teen comedy. The direction by Luke Greenfield doesn't help; his camera never seems to be quite in the right spot for the action. And the script, credited to three writers, doesn't stick to one point of view; we never know whether the upcoming scene will be funny or serious. And yet there are nice moments, and good performances. Hirsch has the open face and winsome charm his role needs to carry the film easily; Cuthbert is good enough to hold the screen with him. Timothy Olyphant, who looks like a low-rent Kevin Bacon, is appropriately evil, and Marquette and Dano are well cast as cute geeks. A better script and tighter direction would have brought "The Girl Next Door" close to classic stature in the genre; as it is, the few good moments are far outweighed by the cheap. One more quibble: Matt lives in a most upscale house and drives a good car; why does he need the scholarship?