By Jason Keil   Published Apr 11, 2004 at 5:13 AM

{image1}It's perfectly evident that Fox is counting on "The Girl Next Door," a risqué teenage male-oriented teen comedy, to be one of the sleeper hits of the spring movie season. However, it is never a good sign when the studio that is pinning such high hopes on a film moves the release date from the sparse days of March, only to bury it in the crowded month of April on the same date as the high-profile historical epic "The Alamo."

Covering up this obvious "Risky Business" retread is understandable, but also a bit of a shame for there is some truly funny moments laced in a script that is, for the most part, a connect-the-dots version of the film that made Tom Cruise a superstar.

The film follows the exploits of high school senior Matthew, played by "The Emperor's Club" actor Emile Hirsch, who walks a straight line drawn by a strict unwavering moral compass that leads the way to Georgetown University. That compass starts to go waver wildly out of control when he meets his next door neighbor's niece Danielle ("24's" Elisha Cuthbert), and the class president comes out of his tight shell (and his pants in one scene) and quickly falls in love.

Things become complicated when one of Matthew's horn dog friends exposes him to Danielle's former alter ego, the heavenly porn actress Athena. To make matters worse, Danielle's producer Kelly, played with scene-stealing smarminess by Timothy Olyphant (the drug dealer in "Go"), wants her to return to the lifestyle she is trying to desperately to escape from. Now Matthew has to risk his future to save the one he loves.

Director Luke Greenfield, who previously directed the Rob Schneider comedy "The Animal," can't decide what he wants the film to be a funny coming-of-age comedy or a low-brow teenage sex farce. The problem is that the film never really succeeds at either, which makes this its search for an identity as difficult as finding your father's Porsche at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Whatever so-called drama and heart that is built whenever Matthew has to make a "life-changing" decision, which is usually marked by a slow-motion sequence and/or a close-up of Hirsch, is bulldozed by yet another porn movie joke. It's as if Greenfield thought that "American Beauty" and "American Pie" should have been condensed into one work, with Hirsch coming off as a high school version of Lester Burnham and Cuthbert playing the mused cheerleader/porn star.

The best highlight the film comes from Olyphant, whose turn as the porn film producer Kelly has the rest of the film aspiring to be as cool as the leather-jacketed lothario. Instead of recalling memories of "Risky Business'" Guido the killer pimp, the greasy haired character is his own man, walking into Matthew's class and silencing the teacher with the snap of a finger and spouting out catchphrase after catchphrase, including the film's clever tagline, "Is the juice worth the squeeze?" There is enough of Olyphant to make this juice slightly refreshing, but in the end you wish you had gone to the freezer for some concentrate.

"The Girl Next Door," rated R, is now showing.