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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Girl Next Door (Uncut)

The Girl Next Door – Uncut


Picture: B-     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 thereof.


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


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