Even though the R-rated teen comedy has been around since the
’80s with films such as “Porky’s,” it
didn’t really make a comeback until the late ’90s with
the “American Pie” series. While it’s unclear if
“The Girl Next Door” is poised for sleeper success,
it’s certainly a cut above films like “Euro
Trip.”

“The Girl Next Door” is the epitome of every teenage
male’s fantasy. The film focuses on Matthew Kidman (Emile
Hirsch, “The Emperor’s Club”), a straight-arrow
high school senior who’s headed to Georgetown if he can win a
scholarship. The story kicks into high gear when the comely
Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert, TV’s “24”) moves in
next door, and the two quickly fall in love.

Just as things seem perfect for Matthew, his world is rocked
when he discovers that she once was a porn star. Things only get
more complicated from there, as Danielle’s ex-boyfriend
— a porn producer named Kelly (Timothy Olyphant, TV’s
“Deadwood) — drags her back into the world she left
behind. Matthew becomes desperate to save her and is soon caught up
in things he would never think of doing before he met Danielle.

While it could be argued that “The Girl Next Door”
is similar to “Risky Business,” the film can claim some
originality. There is an underlying sweetness to the film’s
protagonists and the love story is surprisingly sweet. The main
problem with “The Girl Next Door” is that its story arc
is incredibly uneven. The film is supposed to be a teenage comedy,
but it ends up being a strange hybrid that can be described as a
balance between raunch and romance. Some scenes are way too dark
— like when Kelly attacks Matthew in the car — and
director Luke Greenfield seems to love overstuffing the story with
too many intertwining subplots that wrap up too neatly.

The actors’ performances help elevate the film to an
interesting and respectable level. Hirsch gives a nice
vulnerability to his straight-man role and has some great comedic
timing. The chemistry between Cuthbert and him is good, which makes
it easier to buy into their whirlwind romance. Still, the standout
performer is Olyphant. He works the “friend-or-foe”
angle of his character marvelously, and despite some scenes where
he becomes overbearing, he never goes over the top.

“The Girl Next Door” is a likeable movie, but it is
rather predictable and feels strangely familiar in its plotlines.
While it is not necessarily one of the better teen comedies, it
could have been much stronger if the film’s story was
tightened up and if its elements were more even-handed.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

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