The Girl Next Door (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Girl Next Door received some pretty solid levels of pre-release buzz on the internet, then quietly disappeared after grossing a modest $14 million. What went wrong?

The problem is that it is not a teenage sex comedy, as implied by the premise, which is that a clean-cut straight-A high school senior starts to get crazy when he falls in love with the porn star who moves in next door.

Could be raunchy fun, ala Porky's.

Could be gross humor, ala American Pie.

Isn't either.


  • Various strippers are seen topless and thonged in a strip club
  • Amanda Swisten and Sung Hi Lee played two porn stars who showed their breasts. Swisten also showed her bum from the side, and a hint of her crotch.
  • There are fleeting looks at other members of the adult industry in various stages of undress.
  • Emile Hirsch shows his buns.
  • Elisha Cuthbert is seen in a thong twice, and shows her breasts from the side-rear (no nipple).

 What is it? A formulaic romantic comedy about the relationship between a straight arrow kid and someone his own age who is in the world of adult sexual entertainment. The straight-laced guy gets drawn partially into her porn world to make a few bucks, ala Risky Business (Tom Cruise falls in love with hooker, turns his parents' house into a bordello), or maybe Night Shift (Henry Winkler falls in love with a hooker, turns the morgue into a pimping operation).

So what's wrong with that? People love romantic comedies, right? And Risky Business was a big hit that made Tom Cruise a major star.

True enough, but those who do like romantic comedies may not necessarily like this one.

Let me take you back to Risky Business for a minute, and draw a comparison by making some changes. Suppose Tom Cruise had been worked over a couple of times by thugs from the porno world. And I mean really worked over, until his face was a bloody pulp. Suppose he had been slipped Ecstasy and had to face his parents' world while stoned out of his gourd and still looking like he had just been beaten severely. Suppose his beloved hooker was on the edge of going back to her old life, and really couldn't seem to choose between the two. Suppose the hooker was filled with self-loathing about having been a hooker, yet was non-judgmental about the other people in the business. Suppose Cruise found himself getting a lap dance in a strip club - with one of his dad's best friends getting one in the adjoining chair. Suppose the creepy Alfred Molina guy from Boogie Nights presented a threat to the lives of Cruise and his girl unless they co-operated with him.

And there you have The Girl Next Door in a nutshell. It's Risky Business with moments of dark, ominous, and sometimes very ugly tone shifts, and at least two other elements which put a lot of emotional distance between the film and its audience:

1. Although the film eventually manages to produce the obligatory happy ending, there were moments when it seemed to be vying for the title of Most Heartbreaking Coming-of-Age Film since The Last American Virgin.

2. Not only is the porn star in this film filled with self-loathing, but she is not an entirely sympathetic character. As Roger Ebert wrote in a scathing review:

Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) has two personalities: In one, she's a sweet, misunderstood kid who has never been loved, and in the other she's a twisted emotional sadist who amuses herself by toying with the feelings of the naive Matthew. The movie alternates between these personalities at its convenience, making her quite the most unpleasant character I have seen in some time.

Mr. Ebert is completely right, in my opinion, but ... well ... she's a 19 year old girl who has been in porn for years. You would not expect her to be without some serious emotional scars. It's realistic.

You see, the realism of the film is the thing that made people like it, or dislike it. It is, in essence, the real story of what might happen if a good kid fell in love with a porn star, and the porn star was unable to pull both feet out of her old life. It is much too close to reality to work as a feel-good coming-of-age fantasy, ala Risky Business. Yes, The Girl Next Door has the veneer of a raunchy teen comedy, but that is a thin coating at best. Underneath the laughter, it comes very close to being a real-life drama, and often cuts close to the bone. You just have to accept this film on its own terms, and many people just didn't want to do that.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic

  • scene-select commentaries

  • unrated version, with extra footage not seen in theaters

  • "making of"

  • 15 deleted and extended scenes

And I don't blame them.

It is a different kind of movie, and I understand why it made many people uneasy. It was not what I expected, either.

Yet I felt it was kind of a good flick. (It's rated a solid 6.8 at IMDb). It's well acted, and much more soulful than you would think, with characters drawn much closer to the reality of teen life and porn life than you would expect.

The Critics Vote ...

  • No super-panel consensus. James Berardinelli liked it (3/4), Roger Ebert despised it (0.5/4).

  • British consensus: Telegraph 4/10, Independent 2/10, Guardian 2/10, Times 4/10, Sun 4/10, Mirror 8/10, BBC 2/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.8/10. Yahoo voters call it a B.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. A truly different film, inconsistent in tone, veering sharply from sweet romantic comedy to adolescent sex comedy, to soulful drama, and back. Sometimes funny, sometimes creepy, sometimes sweet.

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