Review: “The Girl Next Door”

While it owes so much to “Risky Business” that it may as well be called a remake, this teen comedy’s return to the 80’s mold funnily enough gives it more laughs and intelligence than most films of this genre (not to mention a better soundtrack).

Yes the story is so familiar it’s beyond cliche, but it does play up those aspects almost deliberately at times such as the opening montage set to ‘Under Pressure’ showing off the standard school cliques of math club geeks, the bitchy hotties and the football jocks – all played almost deliberately by people about ten years too old and far too chiseled to be college grads, let alone school seniors.

The film does delve into the stupid towards the end such as a sequence about our lead being high whilst giving a speech on moral fibre, but the solid cast help keep the material together – most notably the leads. Cuthbert could’ve vamped this up but instead gives her porn star hottie an interesting center – a strong sense of self which allows her to know who she is, but at the same time a slight sense of disappointment of where her life is. Hirsch as the infatuated student is a perfectly amiable young guy, smart enough to chase after what he wants but not so aloof or geeky that it makes the premise too unbelievable.

Supporting roles are also strong, most notably Olyphant doing a more fun variation on his dark “Go” drug dealer performance which works well bounced off Hirsch’s straight-laced hero. Remar also has a small routine as a sleazy porn kingpin, and the two school friends of Hirsch are enjoyably silly additions. Like the 80’s movies the script gives us good moments of character emotional development mixed with upbeat pop classics.

The film does have its share of problems aside from its derivative premise and style. Plot developments ring with little credibility throughout, especially as it goes on and a surprising amount of action/violence is forced into the mix although there’s still enough charm and wit in the first half to overcome some of the more silly events of the second. Pacing is a little erratic, slow-mo is used a little too much, the ‘Juice’ catchphrase is pathetic, etc. Still they’re minor quibbles in an otherwise surprisingly enjoyable teen movie. Hopefully it’ll push things away from the gross-out mold that too many have been copying of late.