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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

The Girl Next Door (Unrated Version) [Blu-ray]


(Luke Greenfield, 2004)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: New Regency/Gordon/Gittes

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 109 min


Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray Case

Release date: September 1, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 32 Mbps



English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; DUB: Spanish & French Dolby Surround



English SDH & Spanish



• Audio Commentary by Director Luke Greenfield

• Scene Specific Commentary by Emile Hirsch

• Scene Specific Commentary by Elisha Cuthbert

• The Eli Experience – in SD (7:57)

• A Look Next Door – in SD (9:59)

• Gag Reel – in SD (2:47)

• Deleted & Extended Scenes – in SD (10:58)



The Film: 5
If you want to see how fuzzy the line between homage, emulation and rip-off, catch the scene where our hero watches the girl next door undress. Everything about this scene, from the music, to the "What the fuck!" comments of his best friend, to the mood, reeks of Risky Business. Add to this, the whole Senior Year hoping to get into the college of one's choice thing, plus a main plot thread that takes us into the seamier side of things (more so here, I'll grant), and whatever might have been fresh about this movie is strangled by imitation.

Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) looks back over a senior year of opportunities neglected, especially when he compares himself with the jocks and their leading ladies off the field. He hopes to get into Georgetown – and who wouldn't. But this summer Matthew's overachieving, but humdrum, life is distracted by Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert), his next-door neighbor's niece, who is visiting for a few weeks. Danielle serves to open up Matthew's previously denied possibilities – that is, until he learns of her past life as a porn star – a life that she is trying to leave behind.

Let's pause for a moment at the concept of an "Unrated Version" of the movie. The na´ve and unsuspecting of us – especially us boys - might hope for more of the dreamy Ms. Cuthbert. While there is certainly some exposed skin north of the waistline, it ain't hers, at least not from the front anyway. (Yeah, I know, you would only watch this movie for the warm and fuzzy story it promises.) And what about this actress, who at this point in her career had been playing the most laughable female on television, the hapless Kim Bauer? Do we get a chance to see what her acting chops are made of? To be fair, the plot doesn't demand all that much, but still, Ms. Cuthbert's presence in this movie isn't nearly as stimulating as the cover art for the disc, and this is regrettable at so many levels.

While Emile Hirsch is likeable enough, and there is one very nice kiss, what redeems this film from the stagnant ooze of soft porn are its supporting players: Timothy Olyphant as the hardcore entrepreneur trying to get Danielle back in the business, and Chris Marquette as Eli, Matthew's best friend and budding film director who tries to shoot a porno movie during the senior prom.



Image: 4/6
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

I find it hard to believe this title is high definition at all. It may be a passable image, barely, on a moderately sized plasma, but in front projection, forget it! Perhaps it's the lack of black in the dark scenes, the lack of bright in the daylight scenes, the overall gauziness where at times it's hard to tell where grain, if that's what it is, leaves off and noise kicks in. I'm sure I've seen better on DVD.














Audio & Music: 6/8
The audio mix fares better. Though front-directed for the most part, the dialogue and ambient effects (Vegas clubs, pool splashes, prom room dance music) are clear enough. The music on the soundtrack is the best thing about the movie and it opens things up nicely, especially at the prom and in the nostalgic opening where high schoolers remember what's memorable about their senior year. Look for Marvin Gaye, Queen, David Bowie, The Who, Muddy Waters, N.E.R.D., Elliott Smith, and others.


Operations: 5
Another menu that hides the table of contents, requiring us to advance chapter by chapter to find the scene we want; same for the extra features.




Extras: 3
Without detailing each segment, a few comments: A missed opportunity not to have had Elisha and Emile do a commentary track together. Their comments apart and for the few scenes they do speak of make for lots of dead air. "A Look Next Door" is the Making-of feature – routine EPK stuff. The high point – or low point, depending on your point of view – is the occasionally droll, and mostly silly "The Eli Experience" where Chris Marquette takes us to the scene of the crime: the adult sex industry. He is assisted in this by pro wrestler and all around mountain, Matt "Horshu" Wiese. Not to outdo the feature film, the extra features are all in fair-to-poor quality SD. The Deleted Scenes are plastered over with copyright warnings – who needs it!



Bottom line: 4
I think the movie means well, and it does explore the world of teenage fantasy and touch on adult sex industry in some ways that Risky Business did not. Even in the "Unrated" version, it's not all that smarmy. The music choices are good, but a weak image and only adequate sound make for a popcorn & beer party movie only (but what's wrong with that, I ask you?)

Leonard Norwitz
September 5th, 2009








About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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