The Girl Next Door looks familiar, but at least her admirers are new.

Porn Again 

The Girl Next Door looks familiar, but at least her admirers are new.

It's a measure of continual cultural desensitization that The Girl Next Door plays like a remake of 1983's Risky Business, yet very little of it feels risky. Twenty years on, the notion of a high school student getting involved in the sex-for-pay business seems almost cute, not dangerous.

Anyone at all familiar with "adult" materials will recognize the title as both Hugh Hefner's favorite catchphrase for his models and the name of a 1999 documentary about porn star Stacy Valentine. Of course, there's also the literal, more innocent meaning, and all connotations apply in this tale of play-it-safe honor student Matthew Kidman (The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys' Emile Hirsch), whose involvement with mysterious and reckless neighbor Danielle (24's Elisha Cuthbert) teaches him to loosen up. Of course, she also lands him in deep trouble when her porn past catches up with them.

No, Cuthbert does not get naked. It makes sense that she doesn't, though -- Danielle is trying to put the porn behind her. (As consolation, we get several other porn-related characters who do get gratuitously nude, so there you go.) But the R-rating isn't just for that: In this movie about high school boys, the high school boys sound authentic. There's also drug use, underage fornication (some of the sex scenes might qualify as statutory rape in the real world) and a gleeful disregard for academia.

The movie begins cleverly, with a gag that likens porn cinematography to yearbook picture-taking. It's hard to believe that the screenwriters of My Baby's Daddy and the director of The Animal -- a movie so mind-numbing that Sony publicists made up a fake critic to praise it -- could have any kind of astute observational humor to offer, but perhaps the R-rating has liberated them.

Kidman is longing for an excuse to take a few risks, and when Danielle shows up in the neighborhood, he gladly submits to her training in the fine art of cutting class. Eventually, she starts to fall for him, but then he falls prey to one of the oldest pitfalls of the genre: turning to his friends for love advice that turns out to be extremely counterproductive. Kidman's best friends AV-club geeks and obsessive porn fans tell him to treat Danielle like a porn fantasy rather than an actual person. (The character of Danielle is still a stereotypical male fantasy either way, but whatever.) Distraught, she returns to the adult industry and her sleazy producer, Kelly (Timothy Olyphant, in the Joe Pantoliano role from Risky Business).

Thankless supporting roles in the likes of Rock Star and A Man Apart have made Olyphant a familiar face, but in The Girl Next Door, he's a breakout scene-stealer -- which isn't the easiest thing to be when the camera is busy fetishizing Cuthbert. Hilariously flirting with a dumpy bank teller one minute, threatening violence the next, his Kelly is the character audiences will talk about. The nudity and profanity may be the reason for the R-rating, but Olyphant is what gives the movie a dangerous edge.

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