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Girl Next Door, The (2004) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 08 September 2009
ImageWhen "The Girl Next Door" was released in 2004 it became an instant dorm room hit with college kids.  It was all about Elisha Cuthbert at the time.  I can't say that I disagree.  However, the film has a solid and fun basis.  It only really suffers from the "been there, seen that" syndrome that haunts many teenage comedies.

This film has a clear three-act structure.  The first 30 minutes of the film is the first act, followed by 30 or so minutes of the second act in which everything goes wrong for our hero and finally the last 30 minutes in which our hero tries to make it all good again.  Without a doubt, the best act is the first one.  The first 30 minutes of the film are very well done.  All the characters get good introductions and the immediate chemistry between Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) and Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) is apparent.  Things start to go downhill with the so of the plot writing after the point in which Matt finally kisses Danielle.

Matt is a senior in high school and the student body president.  He aspires to be the president of the United States.  When Danielle, his next-door neighbor's niece enters his life, it is flipped upside down.  Danielle is the opposite of everything that Matt is.  She takes risks and is comfortable with herself.  Matt is completely unsure of himself and struggles from one day to the next, always wanting to fit in with the jock crowd.

When Danielle catches Matt looking at her through his bedroom window she takes it upon herself to get to know him and make him enjoy life.  Unbeknownst to Matt during the first act is that Danielle is porn star.  She is taking a break from the business, hoping to find out what she really wants to do.  Ruining the best thing Matt has going in his life, his best friend, Eli (Chris Marquette), an avid porn watcher shows Matt a tape of Danielle.  Letting Eli persuade him and his emotions overcome the best of him Matt ceases to be his charming self and acts like an idiot, taking Danielle to a cheap motel to try and bang her, in words of Eli.

Realizing his mistake, Matt can't go through with it.  However, the damage has been done and Danielle walks out of her life and back into the porn star business.  Her producer, Kelly (Timothy Olyphant) seems to be Matt's friend at first, but turns into a stereotypical pimp as time goes on.  Matt tries one last time to get through to Danielle at the Adult Convention in Las Vegas.

When Danielle breaks contract, Kelly is out a lot of money and goes after Matt for compensation.  Kelly steals from Matt and leaves him in a predicament.  However, with Matt's intelligence he comes up with an ingenious way to make back the money that was stolen from him and get the money he needs to attend Georgetown University.  As to be expected, everything works out for our hero in the end.  He gets his money, his future and the girl.
The film's plot is somewhat original but falls back on clichés to carry the film from the beginning to the end.  The first time or two through this film it is great.  But repeatability beyond that beyond diminishes greatly.  Scenes seem longer and duller.  However, Cuthbert is probably the center attention for most male teenage viewers out there.

"The Girl Next Door" comes to Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC encode and a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  To be upfront, I was hugely disappointed with this transfer.  For the first time I don't think that the transfer is an upgrade form the standard DVD.  While there are some improvements, the transfer as whole detracts from the viewing experience.  The film is quite washed out, making it look like a film from the 90s.  The color palette is drained for the most part.  Some of the sequences have blazing colors, but colors and hues are lacking quite a bit.  The level of detail is atrocious.  The sequences are softer more often than not.  Heavy amounts of grain swallow textures and details.  The pop of the image could be enhanced by better black levels and contrast.  Fleshtones have been improved from the standard DVD, particularly those of Eli.  Don't get wrong, there are some excellent scenes in this transfer where detail is quite nice.  However, these shots are lost among the overwhelmingly sloppy transfer.

The audio comes in DTS-HD 5.1.  The quality of this track is only really limited by the original sound design.  The film is entirely front heavy.  The surround channels are virtually absent.  Some ambience creeps into the rear channels during the adult film convention.  The panning and directionality of the sound effects are clumsy at best.  I particularly remember listening to this film on the standard DVD and hearing the doorbell during Matthew's peeping tom sequence as coming from almost the far rear.  In this mix the doorbell is entirely in the front, completely ruining the impact of the sound effect.  Where the track shines is in the music.  There is some incredible rock music in this film.  The music is carried by a solid low end in the LFE channel.  However, the clarity of the high-end has been swallowed up by the low frequencies.  "The Killing Moon" and "Baba O'Reilly" come through quite nicely.  The audio track is good, but not exactly faithful to the original mix.

The Blu-ray contains the same bonus materials that were present on the standard DVD release of the film.  All of the features have been left in standard definition.  First there is an audio commentary by director Luke Greenfield.  This track is informative and upbeat but not as insightful as it could have been.  There are some scene specific audio commentaries by Emilie Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert.  These commentaries are pleasant but hardly deep.  "The Eli Experience" contains some prank humor.  "A Look Next Door" is a making-of featurette that contains some interviews.  Lastly there is a gag reel and some deleted and extended scenes, including the original ending.

"The Girl Next Door" is a pleasant film that is sure to win over the hearts of teenage boys.  The video quality unfortunately doesn't provide this film with what it deserves.  Likewise, the audio quality is somewhat unfaithful to the original mix causing some scenes to lose their impact on the audiences.  If you haven't seen the movie or do not own it on DVD, then I would recommend getting this disc.  However, current DVD owners will probably be happier going without.

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