Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) is an 18-year-old goody-two-shoes who wants to be President. Naturally he gets into Georgetown, but things get a little complicated when he finds out his seemingly innocent next-door neighbor, Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert), is a porn star and subsequently tries to get into her pants. Though The Girl Next Door more or less plays out as a millennium remix of Risky Business, at times it feels more retrograde than its predecessor. In Paul Brickman’s lousy 1983 comedy, Curtis Armstrong’s character disturbingly pleads, “My daddy used to spank my bottom. Now he’s gone. Will you take his place?” In Girl Next Door, the obsessive Eli (Chris Marquette, entirely too funny and outspoken for a geek) encourages his friend Matt to fuck the porn queen (naturally). He advises: “And you can still like her with your penis inside her. Matthew, I tell you that you’re going to regret this. What would JFK do? You know he’d tap that ass.”
Yes, folks, JFK would tap Cuthbert’s ass, but he’d also be more discreet about it. Buried somewhere beneath this 90-minute-plus male fantasy for heterosexual geeks is a fascinating political comedy. Case in point: Matthew wants to be the Commander in Chief, his parents look like Dubya and Laura Bush, and a potential scholarship to Georgetown hinges on the teen’s definition of “moral fiber.” It’s moderately amusing that one of Matthew’s rivals for the Georgetown scholarship uses her race as bait, but Girl Next Door isn’t really interested in seriously addressing politics (sexual, identity, governmental) in America today. The filmmakers easily miss the opportunity to tackle the implications of Michelle’s past on her current relationship with the naïve Matthew and their romance quickly takes a backseat to market-researched drivel (for example, Ecstasy gags for people who’ve never done Ecstasy, or seen Orange County).
Mid-way through the film, Cuthbert practically disappears and the plot wheels begin to turn. After several climaxes and an inexplicable last-act betrayal, the filmmakers end up with one too many Superman fantasies piled up on top of one another. Danielle teaches Matthew how to boogie-down, but he teaches Danielle something more important: not to fuck men in front of the camera. (Since she never tells him she’s unhappy doing porn, the pretext for his moral reparative mission is her perpetual sour puss.) By film’s end, though, Matthew has not only saved Danielle from herself, but he successfully brings a young Asian boy from English-speaking Cambodia to the United States and gives something back to the nation’s bored sexual education program. Naturally, it’s all on the down-low, but how will this greedy white kid who’s clearly beating the mother-fucking shit out of the American dream explain to the electoral college the ex-porn star sitting in his Porsche?