The Girl Next Door
- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2004 1 Jan
When a teenager (Emile Hirsch of
Director Luke Greenfield's film
It gets worse. Mainstream press critics are giving the film stronger reviews than any of the other major new releases this week, including a historical epic and an animated family film from Disney. (It's worth noting that they also liked it better than
But religious press critics are unanimous in arguing that this "comedy" is capable of earning only the most unhealthy sort of laughter.
"It's an adolescent male fantasy—the sexy porn star who actually has a heart of gold falls for the nerdy fellow," explains Anne Navarro (Catholic News Service). "She pulls the uptight boy out of his shell, and he helps the fallen young woman find her innocence again."
Does that mean the film is baiting us with bad things only to surprise us with a moral perspective? Hardly. Navarro explains, "The film's conceit is that it wants the audience to believe its tsk-tsk attitude toward the adult entertainment industry. Yet … Greenfield makes certain that the cameras linger longingly over Cuthbert's curvaceous body and features plenty of shots of topless women slinking around steel poles in the scenes at a so-called gentleman's club. While pretending to disapprove of the objectification of women, the movie does the same thing by showing voluptuous coeds giving the high school football team plenty of close-contact attention." She concludes by criticizing the film's poorly written dialogue and stereotypes.
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) writes, "Porn stars in high schools? An R-rated teenage sex comedy? Is it just me or do these concepts seem more than a little inappropriate?" The message, he says, boils down to this: "'If you find the most important thing in your life, you do whatever you have to do, even if it isn't nice, to hold onto it.' That's having moral fiber? What rubbish."
Bob Smithouser (Plugged In) writes an imagined conversation of the meeting in which the film was pitched. The studio executive is skeptical saying it sounds too much like an update of
Joe Sinko (Christian Spotlight) says the movie "is designed to appeal to the lasciviousness that is running rampant in our culture. It is predictable, awkward, full of profanity and nudity. It pokes fun at the use of Ecstasy, and portrays the majority of high school kids as morally bankrupt. [It] pokes fun at 'normal' kids who are doing their best to get a good education and become contributing citizens in society. It implies that casual sex and pornography are generally harmless things that really hurt no one, and that using drugs will make you funny and enlightened."