The Girl Next Door: Unrated Edition (Blu-ray)
Directed by Luke Greenfield
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 109 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 3.0 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: September 1, 2009
Review Date: September 3, 2009
Modern teen sex comedies from Risky Business to American Pie generally pour on the raunch the more a viewer moves toward a present day release. Luke Greenfield’s The Girl Next Door, however, isn’t so much raunchy as it is messy. It’s a movie that really doesn’t know what identity it wants to explore: a realistic teen comedy, a sex farce, a surreal fantasy. Actually, the movie mixes all of those disparate styles into a stew that’s at times tasty and at times tastelessly outrageous and unpalatable. A fine cast and some good lines aid immeasurably in keeping the movie partially on track, but this is a film whose utter unwieldiness is as exasperating as it is hilarious.
High school senior Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) is an honor student, president of the student council, and a soon-to-be freshman at Georgetown University, but he feels he has let his high school career pass by without experiencing any adventure, any of the mindless fun that most of his classmates seem to be having. Falling for his beautiful and seemingly innocent new neighbor Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) changes all of that. When Matthew discovers that the girl next door who’s sweet on him is a one-time porn star, he begins to experience a series of atypical adventures that should put forever to rest his sense of an unfulfilled high school career. Danielle’s former producer (Timothy Olyphant), however, is not so happy about losing one of the prizes of his stable of porn stars and comes looking to bring her back into the fold.
The script by Stuart Blumberg, David T. Wagner, and Brent Goldberg along with Luke Greenfield’s direction does an excellent job in establishing the time and place: those last few weeks of senior year as classes begin winding down, prom decorations begin to go up, and the yearbooks start to arrive. Matthew’s desperation to experience something he can have as a lifetime memory is palpable, and using this ballsy, aggressive porn star (with the looks of an absolute angel) to push him into situations far past his comfort zone is a wonderful idea. As the movie progresses, however, and Matt gets dragged deeper and deeper into the machinations of porn kings Kelly and Hugo Posh (James Remar) and the babes who come along with that territory, the film slides ever so quickly into farce and then utter fantasy as the lack of realistic occurrences topple the reality the writers and director spent so much time establishing at the beginning. (There are also some Walter Mitty-like surreal sequences which intrude periodically on the story and wear out their welcome quickly.)The film becomes a ragtag collection of scattershot bits: some zany, some silly, some serious, some surreal but none of them tied together into a meaningful whole. The producers count on the good will of the splendid actors and the audience’s memories (some cherished, some despicable) of their own senior years to keep us rooting for the movie. Unfortunately, I rather tired of the almost endless complications of the plot which kept the movie going long past the point of no return. The ending, while reasonably clever, doesn’t really seem to have been earned by what has gone before. The contrivances leading up to it take away some of its wit and surprise.
Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert make an ingratiating and believable set of high school sweethearts. (Many of the other members of Hirsch’s senior class look much older.) Hirsch in particular must traverse many tricky moods and changes of direction which he handles most skillfully. As his two nerdy best friends, Chris Marquette and Royal Dano capture the essence of their characters despite Marquette’s tendency to overact. Timothy Olyphant plays the film’s villain with wicked edginess to spare while Ulysses Lee plays a Cambodian genius who’s wanting to come to America to study with some bright lines and effective comic business.
The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is fine but never as razor-edged and detailed as one might expect. Color is well executed, and flesh tones are generally superb. Black levels are nicely achieved with very good shadow detail. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is typically frontcentric as are most screen comedies of this era. Paul Haslinger’s music score plus the dozens of rock songs from the last forty years get spread across the front channels with dialogue anchored in the center channel. The rear channels and subwoofer don’t get much attention from this sound mix.
Director Luke Greenfield contributes a full audio commentary for the movie (though he tends to run out of superlatives for the cast and crew before the movie finishes running). Stars Elisha Cuthbert and Emile Hirsch each contribute scene specific audio commentaries of their own. Hirsch comments about four scenes in the film (8 ¾ minutes’ worth), and Cuthbert’s five discussed scenes run 12 ¾ minutes.
All of the bonus featurettes are presented in 480i.
“The Eli Experience” finds actor Chris Marquette (who plays student film director Eli in the movie) improvising scenes with various actors and attendees at the Adult Film Convention/AVN Awards in Las Vegas. This runs 8 minutes.
“A Look Next Door” is the film’s EPK making-of featurette featuring the producers, the director, several of the movie’s stars, and the production designer describing their work on this project. It runs for 10 minutes.
A not particularly funny gag reel runs for 2 ¾ minutes.
There are sixteen deleted/extended scenes which can be viewed separately or in one 11 minute chunk. The viewer may also turn on director’s commentary for these scenes.
The movie’s theatrical trailer runs for 2 ½ minutes.
3/5 (not an average)
The Girl Next Door is a quirky mix of comic styles, some of which don’t blend very well into a finished product. It has a good spirit, however, and some wonderful actors that keep audience support with their sincerity. It’s a Blu-ray of above average quality which will likely find a welcome audience for the farcical comic elements and an abundance of beautiful women.