THE GIRL NEXT DOOR directed by Luke Greenfield, written by Stuart Blumberg, David Wagner and Brent Goldberg, with Elisha Cuthbert, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant and James Remar. 110 minutes. A 20th Century Fox release. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Given that the creative team behind The Girl Next Door includes the director of the Rob Schneider vehicle The Animal and the writers of Van Wilder and My Baby's Daddy, this unacknowledged remake of Risky Business can actually be thought of as a step forward. There's a significant difference between The Girl Next Door and Risky Business, though. The latter is a dark and cynical satire of capitalist aspirations, but The Girl Next Door seems to be constructed to give everything to everybody. Whenever it walks on the wild side, it just scampers right back to the nice side.
In Risky Business, Tom Cruise plays Joel Goodson, a Chicago-area high school student terrified about getting into Princeton. In The Girl Next Door, Emile Hirsch plays Matthew Kidman (!?), a high school student worried about getting a scholarship to Georgetown.
Each meets a sex worker, Rebecca De Mornay as call girl Lana in the former, 24's Elisha Cuthbert as porn actress Danielle in the latter. Each is then menaced by a male associate of the woman in question, Joe Pantoliano as Guido the killer pimp in Business and Timothy Olyphant as Danielle's manager/boyfriend Kelly here.
Both Joel and Matthew find themselves suddenly in need of a large sum of money and turn to Lana and Danielle for help in making a ton of cash through some legally problematic sexual hijinks.
It's not exact a remake, but close enough that if I were Risky Business director Paul Brickman I might have my lawyers looking at it.
The Girl Next Door isn't bad. The performers are engaging wiseass teens. Cuthbert is lovely, though she lacks De Mornay's vulpine quality. De Mornay's Lana, even at her most direct, is always calculating the angles of the situation, while Danielle is almost painfully sincere - a defect of the character, not the performance. Olyphant is a very funny blend of menace and bonhomie.
But the film is lumpily constructed, as if every Fox development exec threw something into the pot and let the filmmakers work out how to get it into the picture. Director Luke Greenberg has no eye to speak of and very little in the way of timing; scenes play out shapelessly, and the narrative line is a long clumsy set-up for a really odd punchline.
Risky Business has the bleakest happy ending imaginable. ("My name is Joel Goodson, and in one night I made $8,000." Let's not mention that he lost his soul in the process.) Without giving anything away, the ending of The Girl Next Door lets the protagonists and his friends walk away not just unscathed but with the approval of everyone in their circle.
Studio teen comedies seldom suggest that actions might have consequences. And they have an utter terror of ambiguity.
One of the great things about Risky Business is that you can read its ending in half a dozen different ways, whereas as soon as The Girl Next Door ends, it immediately starts sliding out of your memory.
I doubt if anyone will be wanting to remake The Girl Next Door in 2024.