Girl Next Door, The [Blu-ray Review]

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Starring: Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant, James Remar, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano
Directed By: Luke Greenfield

Running Time: 109 minutes
Ratings: UNRATED

Back Cover

Now on high-definition, and bursting with a load of bonus materials, this raucous comedy starring Emile Hirsch (Into The Wild), Elisha Cuthbert (TV’s 24) and Timothy Olyphant (Live Free Or Die Hard) is hotter than ever!

High-school senior Matthew Kidman (Hirsch) has his whole life in front of him, and not a lot of living behind him… until the girl of his naughtiest dreams (Cuthbert) moves in next door and gives him some experiences he’ll never forget! But when he discovers that she’s a runaway porn star and that a devious producer (Olyphant) is on a mission to get her back, Matthew will have to prove hes devotion… by going all the way!

Movie

The Girl Next Door Blu-ray CoverThe Girl Next Door is a triumphant coming of age story which is reminiscent of a Cameron Crowe project. The film simultaneously has heart while delving into the comedic elements of how every teen finds themselves motivated by hormones at one point or another.

What struck me first and foremost about his film is how mature it handles the topic of sex and the adult film industry. It’s a step above the raunchy gag ridden American Pie series while placing itself squarely in the same category. I attribute this successful endeavour to both the screenplay (written by Stuart Blumberg, David T. Wagner, and Brent Goldberg) as well as the direction of Luke Greenfield. The film plays out with the intention of telling the story first and foremost, letting the laughs come from a place of honesty. I can’t recall a single moment during the film where a character made a decision strictly for the sake of a laugh. The motivations of each character always seem well founded within the realistic realm of what a teenager would do. Having been part of the “not so popular” crowd in high-school myself, I can attest to that with certainty. Clearly, the material was handled with integrity from the start of production straight through to the final take. Where the film really stands out though is in the performances from the cast.

Emile Hirsch is in top form as a teenager who always followed the rules and always lived for the future. His character has spent most of his high-school career worrying about how grades are a reflection in the mirror of success. But, when he inadvertently lets his guard down for a few brief moments with a girl that sends his head, his heart, and the rest of his anatomy spinning, he gives a performance that is truly inspired. The character’s journey through a wavering self-confidence leads him to become a man who will never topple in the face of adversity.

Elisha Cuthbert brings a whole new definition to my understanding of the term “girl next door.” Not only does she live up to the physical stature associated with the fantasy of every teenagers dream of having a sexy neighbour, she also brings a personality to the screen that makes you care more about her as a person than an object for personal physical pleasure. She makes the fantasy into something more real than any teenager could hope for. Her subtle performance in helping the lead character find his true strength is nothing short of impeccable.

Timothy Olyphant. What can I say? I have yet to see this actor do something that I do not enjoy. Since being introduced to him in Go, this man has always been in the top list of my favourite performers. His ability to slide from playing the nice guy who doesn’t feel threatened into the badass sleazy businessman protecting his investments is so seamless that I remember being shocked the moment that said change occurs. The actor has a way about him that is just undeniable. His presence commands the viewers attention in every film he makes. And this project is no exception to that.

The Girl Next Door is a film which will get many revisits from this reviewer of the years to come. It offers plenty of laughs while providing a heartfelt journey through the experience of being an awkward teenager trying to deal with the opposite sex while attempting to stay the course toward academic success. You should be able to love the characters and what they are going through as much as I have.

Crave Factor – 9

Extras

Commentary by Luke Greenfield – Luke does a great job in expressing his intentions behind making this film. He brings to light just how much he wanted to avoid making a typical teenage film and wanted to make a film that represented the perspective of high school that so many have experienced in their lives. He also discusses many of the influences behind some of his most intimate shots as well as his intentions.

Scene Specific Commentary by Emile Hirsch (4 scenes totalling 8:47) – This adds absolutely nothing to the understanding or enjoyment of the film. He actually comes across as rather dull and ignorant. Hirsch really doesn’t offer any bit of commentary of interest that isn’t already a tiny blip on Luke Greenfield’s commentary track… ie: it wasn’t his naked body running down the street in the scene where Danielle makes him strip naked in front of her car.

Scene Specific Commentary by Elisha Cuthbert (5 scenes totalling 12:47) – Elisha definitely has more to offer than Emile. However, she still talks about the shallow topics with regards to what is transpiring on screen instead of getting any deeper about the artistic aspect of the scenes. One of the key differences with this scene specific commentary is that Elisha at least speaks with conviction. I believe that she is honestly trying to improve our outlook on the film in some fashion.

The Eli Experience (7:57) – Ok… this is the craziest stuff I have ever seen from any extra feature on home video. Luke Greenfield, Chris Marquette, and go to the real Adult Film Convention and set up a booth where they lure unsuspecting guys into an enclosed booth entitled “The Eli Experience” and basically punk them via different scenarios under the guise that they could be in Eli’s next adult film project. Absolute hilarity ensues as some of the guys take it seriously and do an absolutely horrible job at trying to land the part. Chris Marquette feeds them lines and direction while they fail miserably at delivering. And the pathetic props/masks only add to the genius of watching it all unfold.

“A Look Next Door” (9:59) – This is a making-of feature that covers all of the bases. Casting, production, and set design each get moments in the spotlight. Every performer in the main cast gets a chance to speak about their impressions of the script prior to casting as well as their experience working with Luke Greenfield. For a brief feature, I did find that it lacked some depth and completely ignored some of the topics that I most wanted to hear about (costuming, script development, and directorial intentions).

Gag Reel (2:47) – Nothing too “laugh out loud” in this short montage except one scene involving the dance that Matthew and his father’s best friend have at the strip club.

Deleted/Extended Scenes (10:58 as ‘Play All’) – Nothing of real note to be seen here. Aside from one scene where Eli continuously pesters Matthew about “banging her” as Matthew storms out of the school having just found out about Danielle’s past, the cuts are all very legitimately in their proper place. The optional commentary is all mostly just “cut for timing” surrounded with dictation of what we see on screen. One scene after the scholarship dinner is broken down nicely through the commentary and Luke really speaks well of it.

Crave Factor – 6

Video

1.85:1 Widescreen / AVC

The Blu-ray release of The Girl Next Door is a bit of a conundrum when it comes to picture quality. The colours really stand up well compared to the DVD version of the film. Whites and primary colours leap off of the screen with the precision one has come to expect from the format. However, the transfer really doesn’t fare up well against the clarity of the format. The image suffers from a consistent softness that blends the edges and keeps the depth of the image from penetrating. This softness is especially evident with the blacks. Most of the blacks are crushed and blended. Altogether, an unimpressive effort.

Crave Factor – 6

Audio

5.1 DTS HD MA

The DTS HD MA track featured on this Blu-ray release is definitely better suited to the format than the video quality. Being a romantic comedy with tragic twists of fate, the audio track isn’t as heavily active as one might want. Nevertheless, the soundtrack definitely benefits from the DTS HD MA track with orchestration and numerous styles of performance music getting a full robust treatment. Being a film devoid of explosions, gunfire, and car chases, this is also the only area in which the audio spectrum gets a workout. The subwoofer presents an excellent low end while the surrounds sparkle with notably balanced treble. In fact, the music sounds so good that I wish some of those artists had concert Blu-rays available. As for the surround effect? There is definitely opportunities where the film allows for environmental detail and does so elegantly without drawing attention to itself. Dialogue is never a problem as every letter comes through with utter clarity.

Crave Factor – 8

Menu

A rather plain and uneventful menu system is offered with this release. The still image consists of a white background, a photo of Elisha Cuthbert wearing a red top and looking into the camera, a photo of Emile Hirsch looking at her through a window frame, and some lipstick kiss marks planted around the screen randomly. The menu navigation is done nicely with subtle fades and sliding transitional effects. Menu options are placed horizontally along the bottom of the screen in a translucent dark grey box that stretches the entire length of the screen.

The playback pop-up menu functions in the exact same fashion as that described in the disc menu above; With the translucent dark grey box present, but without the white background image imposing upon the film presentation.

Crave Factor – 4

Conclusion

The Blu-ray release of The Girl Next Door does not offer up an ideal improvement of the presentation over the DVD release. The video presentation definitely helps nail the colours more realistically. However, the soft quality of the image detracts from a hi-def experience. The audio sounds great, but that’s not a difficult task for the style of film being presented. Aside from the film itself, the only noteworthy aspect of this release is a few of the extra features presented in standard definition anyhow, which can also be found on the DVD anyhow. So whether or not one purchases it to upgrade their existing copy is up to the individual. However, anyone looking to add the title to their collections for the first time might do well by getting the extra colour detail and crisper sound experience available with the Blu-ray… that is, if the $6 DVD price isn’t too enticing.

Overall Crave Factor
7

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