The Girl Next Door Review
What would happen if you fell in love with your new neighbour and then you found out she was a porn star? This is the question posed by the new teen comedy The Girl Next Door, although it never gets around to answering it. Instead, its makers decided to tackle an easier one: what would happen if you remade the 1983 hit Risky Business with porn replacing prostitution? The result is a pleasant, sometimes amusing, sometimes exasperating diversion graced with a few nice performances. If you can get past the fact that The Girl Next Door isn't the movie being advertised, but something much more coy and derivative, you'll probably get some fun out of it.
Matthew (Emile Hirsch), Eli (Chris Marquette) and Klitz (Paul Dano) are high school brains. They're all about to graduate with honours and move on to prestigious colleges yet all three share a feeling that by spending their teenage years studying like they were supposed to, they missed out on something. Life becomes more interesting, at least for Matthew, when he gets a new neighbour, a beautiful blonde called Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert). He doesn't make a great first impression - she catches him peeping into her bedroom and exacts a humiliating revenge - but his guileless charm wins her over, soon they're the best of friends and it looks like it may turn into something more. That's until Eli, a porn addict, gives Matthew a video featuring an adult star called Athena, who is the spitting image of Danielle.
Just as things are getting complicated, the screenwriters decide their oddball love story isn't good enough and The Girl Next Door morphs into Risky Business. Danielle decides she wants to leave the porn industry and her scuzzy producer Kelly (Timothy Olyphant) shows up to tempt her back and punish Matthew for interfering. Which, you may remember, is much the same as what happened between Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay and Joe Pantoliano. Also familiar are the impending college acceptance, the threat of Matthew's parents finding out, the sudden need for money and the method of raising it. It's been a while since I've seen plagiarism this blatant.
The filmmakers are also guilty of hypocrisy, of using sex and porn as selling points for a strangely prudish movie with very little sex, less nudity and nothing that might turn anyone on. If you were hoping to see 24's Kim Bauer with her clothes off, forget it. It's something of an achievement to have made a film about pornography as squeaky clean as this. Naturally Danielle doesn't want to be a porn star anymore. It wouldn't do for her to enjoy her job or at least like the money and for Matthew to have to deal with his girlfriend filming a threesome with Jenna Jameson and Buttman. In fact Danielle's involvement in the industry is hardly discussed, presumably to spare Matthew and the audience from any discomfort. The Girl Next Door plays like a movie written by a teenage virgin, not a movie about one. It never even stops to wonder whether Matthew could sexually satisfy a professional porn actress on his first attempt.
Chief among its redeeming qualities are Emile Hirsch, Chris Marquette and Paul Dano, who make an appealing and believable trio of high school kids. Marquette in particular makes a strong impression as a sex-crazed film nerd. Elisha Cuthbert might also have given a good performance if someone had bothered writing her a character. Danielle is a set of tart-with-a-heart clichés; a sexy plot device who acts seductive, angry, smitten, wounded or touched depending on what the scene requires. There's never a sense of a person thinking for herself. The real ace in the hole is Timothy Olyphant, who was memorable as the drug dealer who seduced Katie Holmes in Go and here plays Danielle's porn producer. His character may be ripped off from Risky Business's "Guido The Killer Pimp" but that doesn't stop Olyphant making the role his own and stealing every scene he's in. He's like sleaze personified.