Blu-ray
Worth a Look
3 stars
Amazon
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3 Stars
HD Video Quality
2.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
2.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Worth a Look

The Girl Next Door: Unrated

Street Date:
September 1st, 2009
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
September 17th, 2009
Movie Release Year:
2004
Studio:
20th Century Fox
Length:
109 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

I don't know what it is, but I keep reviewing titles that were marketed all wrong. 'Adventureland' was billed as the next 'Superbad' just because it had the same director. 'The Soloist' wasn't marketed at all. And now we have 'The Girl Next Door,' a 2004 film from Fox that has been marketed like it's the next 'American Pie' or 'Road Trip.' It's sad when the studios don't believe that a movie can do well on its own merits and therefore it's compared to other movies that it clearly is not.

'The Girl Next Door' owes more to the John Hughes teenage comedies of the 80's than it does the raunchy teen sex-romps of the 90's. With a scantily clad Elisha Cuthbert ('24') on the cover and “Unrated Version” written in the shape of smudged lipstick on the front cover, you'd think you were getting another gross-out teen comedy churned out by the same factory that released 'Miss March,' (a porn star blowing up a condom like a balloon on the back cover doesn't help matters any either).

In fact 'The Girl Next Door' has quite a different, more meaningful feeling to it than the raunchy teen fare it's being compared to. Emile Hirsch ('Into the Wild') is cleanly shaven for a change and actually plays a straight-laced youth perfectly. I was getting so used to seeing him as the same type of hippie character I forgot the true scope of his acting ability. Here he plays social outcast Matthew Kidman. He's ostracized because he's smart, nerdy, and the high school president. He gets kicked out of parties, booed off stage when he's trying to rally the school to raise funds to help a South Korean genius come their to study, and worst of all the pretty girls completely ignore him.

One day Matthew watches as a gorgeous girl, Danielle, moves in next door. That night he catches her undressing. She undresses the way beautiful girls only undress in movies, you know with all the lights on, curtains open, pretty much every young man's dream that never happens. She catches him. The doorbell rings, it's her. She doesn't tell Matthew's parents though, instead she invites Matthew to take a ride with her. She's got to see him naked now, makes perfect sense. So Matthew strips in the middle of the road, she drives by, yoinks his undies off the pavement and zooms out of sight.

It's not long before Matthew's sexually charged friend finds a porn movie starring the new girl. Yes, she's a porn star. Matthew tries desperately to keep his life together while courting the girl next door. His schooling suffers and his fundraising for the South Korean kid hits a snag, but he'll do anything for love. That also means putting up with his girlfriend's porn producer played by Timothy Olyphant ('Live Free or Die Hard'), a vindictive, manipulative man.

'The Girl Next Door' has its problems. Danielle is convenient in her feelings. Sometimes she's a saucy vixen who plays with the hearts of young men, and at other times she's a vulnerable young girl who's just been caught up in the wrong kind of business. Contrary to the title, Danielle really spends a minimal amount of time on screen, and most of that screen time is spent giggling at lines from other actors.

The film's ambiance, however, is its saving grace. If it played out like 'Miss March' and went solely for the gross-out humor it would be a failure. Here, it has the feeling of an old 80s teen romp and ultimately, that's what makes it interesting.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

This film was made in 2004? With this transfer you could've fooled me. The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is all sorts of washed-out. Colors aren't vibrant or flashy, instead for the most part they're dull. Skin tones are all over the map, sometimes perfect and other times completely overtaken by burning white when the light hits them wrong. There's a heavy helping of grain too, but that doesn't really distract from the overall viewing experience. It's actually about the only thing that helps the transfer resemble anything film-like.

Crispness and clarity are also muted and soft. There's never a point during the entire film where the power of HD wows or amazes. Blacks are never especially deep either. The transfer looks terribly dated. While it's still an upgrade from its DVD counterpart, it's by a mighty slim margin. It just isn't what you'd expect from a newer movie on Blu-ray.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track fares quite a bit better than the video transfer, but in this talky film there's never much of a chance for it to show off. Voices are never muffled, and the directionality comes across nicely. The soundtrack of the film -- which features artists like N.E.R.D. and Marvin Gaye -- is treated well, with a heavy helping of LFE when called upon. The surrounds, for the most part, are silent, except when called upon at public venues like the Adult Film Convention and a strip club that Matthew visits with Danielle and her producer. While it's not going to blow any socks off, it's a competent audio presentation that does what is asked of it.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentary - Director Luke Greenfield offers up a commentary on 'The Girl Next Door.' Fans of the film will have already heard this commentary on the previous DVD release. There's nothing new here. Greenfield talks about how casting really made the movie what it is, the difficulties in getting across the kind of teen sex comedy he wanted to make, and what stages the script went through to get to its final product. It's not dull, but not overly exciting either. It lies somewhere in the middle on a list from best to worst commentaries.
  • The Eli Experience (SD, 7 min) - The only relevancy that this has to the movie is that it is filmed at the Adult Film Expo, the one that Matthew goes to, to win Danielle back. Some pranks are pulled on people who don't expect them, and you're left wondering why in the world this feature was ever conceived and included.
  • A Look Next Door (SD, 9 min) - This is a set of fluffy promotional interviews with the cast of the show. Greenfield cuts in now and then with tidbits on how the casting was done. All of the main actors are featured, but only briefly, to say a few words about the characters they play. This is most likely something you'd see on 'Entertainment Tonight.'
  • Gag Reel (SD, 2 min) - Being a movie focused on the adult film business I'm glad that no special liberties were taken with this. Whew! Instead it is your standard brief clip of flubs and mess-ups with lines, and actors laughing when you have no idea why they're laughing.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (SD, 10 min) - There are 16 deleted scenes in all. Most of them, according to Greenfield's commentary, were cut because of pacing problems. When you watch them you'll see why. An interesting scene, that is supposedly the “original” ending is shown here too, but it was cut because it was too confusing to the audience. I won't spoil it here for those of you that want to know why it was so confusing.
  • Scene Specific Commentary by Emile Hirsch (SD, 8 min) - Emile Hirsch gives a brief commentary on five specific scenes from the film. If they think this gets them off the hook for not providing a commentary with Greenfield, Hirsch, and Cuthbert all together then they're mistaken.
  • Scene Specific Commentary by Elisha Cuthbert (SD, 12 min) - Like Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert is asked to comment on a few of her scenes in the film. If you'd like to know what went through Elisha's mind when she was deciding on whether to do the partial nude scene then this is the feature for you.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There is no new content for this release.

Final Thoughts

'The Girl Next Door' is an oddly entertaining flick that isn't without its flaws. I commend the film for trying to rise above the formulaic battlegrounds of teen sex comedies. It certainly has the influence of John Hughes running around within it. On the other hand I am annoyed by the marketing team that saw fit to promote this film as another 'American Pie' thereby alienating a fan base that may like the film while attracting a fan base who will most likely not enjoy it at all. Ridiculous!

It's a shame that the PQ here is a disappointment. It had so much potential, but it seems to have been squandered a bit. I'm still recommending this title because it really is original and deserves to be seen by a different audience that may have missed it the first time, thinking it was something else.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG 4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English
  • French
  • Spanish

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • Featurettes
  • Gag reel
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