The Girl Next Door – Uncut
Sound: B- Extras: B- Film: B
How and why The Girl Next Door (2004) was not a
bigger hit is beyond me. Obviously, it
is racy in parts, but if there was any doubt about problems with the
R-rated/censored version in what is essentially a throwback to some of the sex
comedies of the 1950s and 1960s, here is the uncut version. Fox made many of those films and nude or
clothed, Elisha Cuthbert makes the film work because she is really sexy and
beautiful enough either way to be a more than convincing object of desire. She is a successor to the sexy and most
glamorous of the women of that time.
The story begins when Matthew (a perfectly cast Emile
Hirsch) sees to his stunned belief that a beautiful new neighbor has
arrived. It’s love at first sight for
him, but for Danielle (Cuthbert), he is an innocent who she finds
appealing. She is not so innocent
herself, which Matthew finds out when a friend reveals that she works in the
hardcore sex video industry! The amount
of story that happens after that revelation is unbelievably good and very well
thought out. In just about every case,
this film would have been a disaster, but thanks to a truly funny screenplay by
Stuart Blumberg, David T. Wagner and Brent Goldberg (Wagner & Goldberg
co-wrote the story) that is clever and sly, this is a surprise hoot. It turns out Greenfield did some adjusting
to the film and the leads did hard work rehearsing the working out al the scenes
extensively, which pays off greatly.
So why does this work so well? For one, Luke Greenfield has done a great job of directing, with
great comic timing and the proper sensitivity.
Most films go the very quickly tired American Pie direction of
gross-out moments with no point. It
quickly disposes of any virgin/whore complex and the best thing it does is take
many segments of a world where everyone knows it all, but are more clueless
than ever. That is a brave thing to do
and the best achievement of this film.
Most teen comedies are pointless and actually degrade their intended
audience, but this one is able to take today’s sexual openness and treat it
with the proper ironic distance and make a funny film that deals with age-old
insecurities and fun twists on the male/female relationship and the competition
This film is also so perfectly cast that there is
chemistry all over the place, which has the potential to further make this a
classic of the teen comedy like nothing we have seen in a long time. Its sincerity and authenticness reminded me
at times of Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous (2000) in that a young man is
thrust into a young innocent kid is thrust into a raw adult world, while some
of the triangular sexual politics reminds me of Jonathan Demme’s Something
Wild (1986). Either way, it
eventually carves out its own claim to be at least a minor classic of the
genre, or subgenre if you see it as that.
I thought it even worked far better than the likes of the “critically
acclaimed” Napoleon Dynamite being pushed for awards consideration. Because this spoofs the adult sex industry,
this will be overly ignored for that kind of thing.
The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is pretty good,
though missing some of the detail one would expect form a new release. With that said, the picture is pretty
consistent overall otherwise.
Cinematographer Jamie Anderson, A.S.C., does a great job of capturing so
many comic shots, that I cannot remember the last time one film had so many. Besides some French and Spanish Dolby
Digital 2.0 Stereo with Pro Logic surrounds, there is the main English Dolby
Digital 5.1 mix that is good, but I kept wishing it were DTS, which would have
made the sitting even funnier. It was
released theatrically that way. I also
liked most of the choices of music that is unusually good in a time so many
films are hit song soundtrack driven.
Paul Haslinger’s original score is also a plus.
The extras are contained on the flipside of the DVD for
the most part, but the feature film side contains an audio commentary by director
Greenfield and an option for trivia balloons while you watch the film. Greenfield is very well spoken, which is no
surprise considering how good his film is.
The balloons are good, but are often not about the film. Side Two has scene-specific commentary on
select scenes by Hirsch & Cuthbert that add to learning about the
production, a not-always-funny reality TV like segment called The Eli
Experience that Greenfield taped at a XXX show that would repel many from
seeing the film if they have not, a short gag reel with some moments, a stills
segment, a DVD promo reel for Fox DVDs, three trailers for Fox titles including
this one and 16 deleted/extended scenes have an optional commentary by
Greenfield that can be played all at once, but you do not know that until you
get to the second menu!
Like the far more serious Donnie Darko, also issued
on DVD by Fox (and reviewed elsewhere on this site), I hope this film
(especially in this uncut version) makes this a comeback hit on DVD. It is funny, politically incorrect and one
of the year’s most unusual surprises. The
Girl Next Door has just joined a short list of teen film greats.
- Nicholas Sheffo