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Thursday, April 8, 2004 03:05 am

Movie review

The Girl Next Door

Girl rise above the typical teen flick

Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) has done well in high school and hopes to enter a prestigious university. Asked what he'll remember about school, Matthew realizes that he's done nothing but hit the books. Everything changes when a freewheeling heartbreaker moves in next door. Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert), in town to housesit for her aunt, is every teenage boy's dream come true. Drop-dead gorgeous and exuding a sense of confident sexuality, she takes Matthew under her wing. Soon he's drinking at parties, staying out late, and actually thinking about having sex. But Danielle has a secret: She's a porn star in hiding, trying to put her sordid past behind her.

Director Luke Greenfield wisely avoids the simplistic and crude sexual humor that typifies most coming-of-age films. Girl has a much more ambitious agenda, as Matthew and Danielle both wrestle with the conflict between image and reality. She's fully aware of her past mistakes, but doesn't see that she's a morally sound person and worthy of love. Similarly, he's oblivious to his success, and focused instead on the fact he's not part of the "in" crowd. Of course, Danielle and Matthew see the good in each other -- it's recognizing the good in themselves that proves so difficult.

While solid comic support is provided by Chris Marquette and Paul Dano as Matthew's bumbling friends and the film contains its fair share of laughs, it's the film's willingness to focus on the themes of acceptance, forgiveness and redemption that elevates it among the usual teen flick fodder. Though it's pitched as a ribald romp, there's more to Girl than meets the eye.

What other critics are saying. . .

Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London [PG] Frankie Muniz is secret agent Cody Banks on his second adventure. "Agent Cody Banks 2 may have a difficult time appealing to young girls without Hilary Duff on board." (Ed Gonzalez, Slant magazine) White Oaks

The Alamo [PG-13] Santa's coming, and you better watch out. Tells the story of the 1836 standoff between a group of Texans, including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, and the Mexican army, led by General Santa Ana."The filmmakers have obviously decided to use as their model those educational films. . .that are inflicted on soon to be history-hating students at the middle school level" (Andrea Chase, Killer Movie Reviews) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress [PG-13] A boy is sent to a Maoist "rehabilitation" camp in the mountains and falls in love with the village tailor's granddaughter. Chinese/French film in Mandarin with subtitles, based on the best-selling novel by the director, Sijie Dai. "A delightful fable about the enduring value of literature." (Susan Walker, Toronto Star)White Oaks

Dawn of the Dead [R] Flesh-eating zombies are after a nurse (Sarah Polley), a cop (Ving Rhames), and a few others who are holed up in a shopping mall. "While I'll definitely always prefer the original, the remake has earned its place in the dead series." (Joshua Tyler, ShowPlace West

Ella Enchanted [PG] Ella is a young woman who was given the "gift" of obedience by a fairy named Lucinda. After her mother dies, Ella is cared for by her thoughtless, greedy father who remarries a loathsome woman. A variation on the Cinderalla theme based on Gail Carson Levine's award-winning novel. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [R] After Joel (Jim Carrey) learns that his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has the memories of their relationship erased, he decides to do the same. Though his memories gradually fade, he starts to remember how they first fell in love, and now he can't get her out of his mind. "A remarkable film that can coax a smile about making the same mistakes in love and then sneak up and quietly break your heart." (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) Parkway Pointe Art

Hellboy [PG-13] A demon, rescued during infancy from the Nazis, becomes a defender against the forces of evil. "The sheer ingenuity and obvious joy del Toro puts into the major action sequences lifts the movie out of the mundane." (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Hidalgo [PG-13] The story of a Pony Express courier (Viggo Mortensen) who travels to Saudi Arabia to compete with his horse, Hidalgo, in a dangerous race for a massive contest prize. "Nothing kills my Viggo jones like a bad western set in the Arabian Desert.' (Jeanne Aufmuth, Palo Alto Weekly) ShowPlace West

Home on the Range [PG] When an eviction notice is posted on the Patch of Heaven dairy farm, the cows decide to raise money by collecting a bounty on a notorious yodeling cattle rustler."Witty and self-assured, Home on the Range ranks as one of Disney's better efforts." (Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution); "Disney's western cartoon comedy may be the first film to require cortisone treatments from jamming its elbow in the audience's ribs so often." (Elvis Mitchell, New York Times) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Jersey Girl [PG-13] A music industry executive struggles to raise his young daughter on his own. "[Ben] Affleck finally scores a hit with a co-star who is nine years old." (Victoria Alexander, Parkway Pointe

Johnson Family Vacation [PG-13] A family takes a road trip from hell, with the inevitable wrong turns, car problems and trouble with the law. Stars Cedric the Entertainer."This movie is a flat, unfunny mess." (Willie Waffle, Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

The Ladykillers [R] A professor assembles a group of thieves for a casino heist. After they hole up in a sweet old woman's home, they find that she's the biggest threat to their plans. Stars Tom Hanks. "The Coens' remake of a comedy classic flounders amid extreme caricatures and stained humor. (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter) Parkway Pointe

Never Die Alone [R] Turf war erupts after a drug kingpin returns home. "There's something refreshing about a pulp drama that turns on the notion that redemption is a sucker's fantasy." (Mark Holcomb, Village Voice) Parkway Pointe

The Passion of the Christ [R] Mel Gibson's version of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. "The sacrifice Gibson's Jesus makes is purely physical. The violence to which he is subjected is portrayed to the point of being gratuitous and manipulative." (Chuck Koplinski, Illinois Times)Parkway Pointe

The Prince and Me [PG] Fairy tale about a college student who meets a prince in Wisconsin."Fitful corny one-liners and an ambiguous climax can be overlooked due to fresh scripting and the vast appeal of Julia Stiles and newcomer Luke Mably." (Jeanne Aufmuth, Palo Alto Weekly) Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed [PG] The gang must contend with a masked villain who unleashes scary monsters in an attempt to take over Coolsville. "Doggone fun for kids (and stoners) everywhere." (Susannah Gora, Premiere magazine) ShowPlace West

Taking Lives [R] An FBI profiler (Angelina Jolie) is called in by French Canadian police to catch a serial killer who takes on the identity of each new victim. "Director D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea) shows promise. But when's the last time Jolie starred in a really good movie?" (Susannah Gora, Premiere magazine) ShowPlace West

Walking Tall [PG-13] A former member of U.S. Army Special Forces (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) returns to his small Washington State home to revive his family's lumber business. The town's overrun with corruption; the ex-soldier fixes things with a two-by-four. "The new Walking Tall is essentially a lighter, cliff-note version of the original film." (Stefan Halley, ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

The Whole Ten Yards [PG-13]Jimmy the Tulip's (Bruce Willis) springs into action when the wife of his old pal Oz (Matthew Perry) is kidnapped by a Hungarian mob. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

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