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DVD Review - The Girl Next Door

August 15th, 2004

The Girl Next Door centers around Matthew Kidman, a senior at Westport High School whose career has been everything he could hope for. Class president, acceptance into a top University and he's a lock for a scholarship as well. But there's just one problem, he's worked so hard to accomplish these goals that he never really lived. That is until Danielle moves in next door. She helps him break free and learn to live life, but she has a secret that could destroy their relationship.

When The Girl Next Door was released in April of this year, its performance at the box office was less than expected, to put it mildly. Fortunately for those involved, it looks to make a big impression at the home market.

The question of why the film failed to live up to its potential is an interesting one. Reviews don't explain it, as it was best-reviewed film the week it was released and well ahead of the average for a wide release this year. I think it had something to do with the marketing. It was marketed as a teenage sex romp, but there's not enough sex or nudity for it to be classified as such. (At least not in the theatrical release, the Unrated Version in another story.) While the focus on the Porn Industry scared away people who would otherwise enjoy the movie. For those that did give the film a chance, it looks like the film won over many fans. The user rating on our site helps back up that claim.

(On a side note, looking at some of the reviews the two biggest complaints were that it wasn't as good as Risky Business and that its permissive view of the porn industry was immoral. I like combining those two complaints because it makes it sound like the critics think that the porn industry is bad but prostitution is good.)

The film has a lot of selling points, including a great cast. Emile Hirsch really brought something to the character of Matthew and Elisha Cuthbert can communicate everything you needed to know with just her eyes. But it was Timothy Olyphant, as Kelly the borderline bipolar porn producer and Chris Marquette, the porn obsessed best friend, who stole almost every scene they were in.

The story is good, but a little predictable. This is not surprising since much of the plot revolves around Danielle's secret, which is the worst kept movie secret since the sinking of the Titanic. They advertise that she was a porn star, so you know what's coming and you can pretty much guess how the character will react. But the characters were compelling enough that you were still interested in their reactions when they happened.

Some of the scenes seemed to jump as if the filmmakers had more they wanted to say but wanted to keep the running time under 2 hours at all cost. They needed to get from Point A to Point B to Point C as fast as possible, and did so without allowing the characters to stop and develop at a more reasonable pace. And this adversely affected the narrative. Watching the special features, including the audio commentary and the deleted and extended scenes confirmed this as the director, Luke Greenfield, mentioned that several important scenes were cut for timing. I just wish I could watch the movie with all those deleted scenes added back in. It's just one of countless movies that I'll wait for a director's cut that will probably never come.

Special features are a big selling point for any DVD, and this one has plenty. You have your every present full-length audio commentary, which I've already mentioned was with the director, Luke Greenfield. There is also a Trivia Track that shows trivia on the screen throughout the movie. A lot of the facts deal only tangentially with the movie with information like why crayons smell the way they do or how many cell phone subscribers there are in the U.S. It was also fun to listen to the audio commentary with the Pop-Up Trivia because they often coincided, sometimes with different remarks.

For the rest of the special features you have to flip to Side B. First is the scene specific commentary by Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert, done separately. There are six scenes in total with quite a bit of overlap, so you get to hear some conflicting reports on how some scenes went. There are some more standard special features like the previously mentioned extended and deleted scenes, gag reel and a making of featurette. The most unique feature is "The Eli Experience". This featurette has Chris Marquette playing his character Eli at the real Adult Video Convention trying to get men to star in a porn film. Then they would switch the woman for Matt Wiese, who played Mule in the movie.

The last special feature is an Easter Egg. To find out how to access the Easter Egg and what it is highlight the following text. On the supplements side go to the Gag Reel and then push right. This causes a blue XXX to appear. Hit the enter button to watch an old Sex Education video. End of spoiler.

Since this is the Unrated Version, I would be amiss if I didn't mention the difference between this and the theatrical version. Unrated DVDs are usually greeted by their target audience with the reaction, "Woo hoo, more boobs!" And while yes, the Unrated does have more nudity, it also have a couple of scenes that were cut because they were deemed too dark. And having these scene placed back into the film helps with the story telling, so it's not just a crash marketing ploy.

I would also be amiss if I didn't have at least a quick note about the music in the movie. There are a lot of great songs in this movie, many of which are older than the target audience for this movie is.

Normally I won't even mention DVD presentation because it never affects my purchasing decisions. For instance, I absolutely hate those cardboard snap cases that a certain studio always used to use. But I still own more than a dozen of them because I don't care enough to not buy a DVD because of it. However, there are two points I want to make. Firstly, the film is being released on a double-sided DVD instead of two single sided DVDs as I would have preferred; I would even pay more for it, but that's just me. Secondly, the DVD case comes with cardboard slipcover that makes it look like Elisha Cuthbert is wearing less than she actually is. This is very cheesy but equally as fun.

In conclusion, The Girl Next Door was a criminally overlooked when it was first released and I should be talking about it now as one of the pleasant surprises from the spring. But all signs point to it attaining some measure of success on the home market, if not cult classic status.

You can pre-order the DVD on Amazon for its August 24th release, or enter our contest today.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Girl Next Door