The Girl Next Door

The film centers on high school senior Matthew Goodman, who dreams of one day being president of the United States. As leader of the student council, the 18-year old focuses his efforts on earning a “moral fiber” scholarship to Georgetown University and, much to the amusement of the school’s jocks, raising $25,000 to help bring over an exchange student from Cambodia. He, like his friends Eli and Tim Klitz, spend most of their time talking instead of doing; they are the observers of the high school scene. That single-mindedness for Matthew soon changes when he first glimpses Danielle, who is housesitting next door.

As the screenwriters describes, “Suddenly, he sees her. The most beautiful girl in the world, 19, walking up his neighbor’s driveway… All at once, Matthew is overwhelmed with butterflies. He stares at her in wondrous shock. Seeing the look on his face makes the girl smile… and that’s it. Matthew is done for.” Danielle soon catches him watching her as she undresses and soon after they become fast friends. Although she gives every hint that she is interested in him as well, pinpointing him as needing someone who will challenge him, Matthew is hesitant to make the first move. It isn’t until after she has him running around in his neighborhood in his skivvies, swimming in the principal’s pool and doing body shots at a raucous party that he finally summons the courage to kiss her.

And then the discovery comes– Eli finds out that she used to be a porn star.

At this point, the script changes its tempo drastically. At the urging of Eli, Matthew attempts to get her drunk and bring her to a motel room to bring out “the true porn star” in her, as Eli puts it. His awkward attempt at a seduction is met by her spurning him. Matthew is then forced to risk everything to maintain his relationship with her, as her former manager/producer Kelly pays a visit to bring her back to the world she once knew. Upset at the way things have turned out with Matthew and still owing one film on her contract, she goes to Las Vegas for the AVN/Adult Film Convention. Matthew, with Eli and Klitz in tow, follows.

There, he woos her back. But things have been complicated with Kelly getting his hands on the money meant for the Cambodian math genius. Matthew figures out how to solve the problem-by staging a film on safe sex with both porn actresses and students at the senior prom.

There are a few genuinely amusing scenes in the film- the best can be found in the third act, where Matthew has to give a speech to the scholarship foundation, while high on Ecstasy and bruised from a fight with Kelly. The scene is highly derivative of “Risky Business” (Matthew chucks the prepared speech with the words “I’m just gonna let go,” and proceeds to tell a stunned audience his candid thoughts on the subject of moral fiber), but it somehow works. The transition scenes between Kelly and Matthew also seem to work. But, for a comedy, there needs to be more scenes like these here.

The latter two acts need some major tweaking. Also needing work are those involving Eli, a despicable and annoying character with every word he utters in the script. Eli needs to be toned down quite a bit- His character feels vastly out of place with the core group of three friends. If I were Matthew and Klitz, I would cut him loose from their circle.

Hopefully, despite it being stamped as the final product, this script is far from being a completed product- I would recommend another screenwriter be brought in to polish this effort before filming begins in early January.

Other Thoughts on the Film
This film’s success will hinge largely on successful casting. Elisha Cuthbert (“24”) takes on the role of Danielle, while Emile Hirsch (“The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys”) takes on the role of Matthew. I’m not certain Cuthbert can pull off this role, her recent photo spread in Maxim notwithstanding. She is a known commodity from “24,” but her character’s arcs are always named as among the series’ weak points- hopefully, she can climb beyond those expectations. Hirsch showed a great deal of promise in “The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys,” as well as good advance word for his role in “The Emperor’s Club.” This part doesn’t feel like a good fit for him; is this the best he could dor

As of this writing, the secondary leads have not yet been cast. In the cases of Eli and Kelly, these roles are just as important as the leads, if not even more tricky. The director for the picture is Luke Greenfield, who also helmed Rob Schneider’s “The Animal.”

As I had mentioned above, the high school/college comedy has performed poorly in 2002- the combined domestic box office of “Orange County,” “Slackers,” “Sorority Boys,” “Van Wilder,” “The New Guy,” “Swimfan,” “Stealing Harvard” and “The Rules of Attraction” has barely eked past the $150 million mark. As it is written right now, this is an R-rated film with the nudity, the amount of profane language and some drug use. From a marketability standpoint, I would not expect it to top out over the average dollar gross of these 2002 pictures, as Fox 2000 (the distributing partner, with Regency Enterprises the producing company) stands to alienate a good number of the audience they are targeting with this rating. All this said, it’s hard to tell how this would do in theaters at this vantage point-this could just as easily be headed for a straight-to-video release if the shooting doesn’t go well.

Overall, this script really didn’t do anything for me, other than think of how Cuthbert would look in some of the get-ups described in the script. This reminds me of something along the lines of Comedy Central’s first effort at a film for their channel, “Porn & Chicken,” or the Keri Russell-led bomb “Eight Days a Week.” It needs some major work, along with a good couple of casting choices for the remaining roles, for this one to capture an audience. The screenplay, dated August 26th, 2002, is written by Luke Greenfield and Chris McKenna and based on a story by David Wagner and Brent Goldberg. Additional revisions have done by Stuart Blumberg. The script is listed as “Final Draft”.

Rating: D+