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April 12, 2004 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-04-12

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April 12, 2004



Albom's sophomore
novel hits and misses

By Bonnie Kelman
Daily Arts Writer
Eddie's life is not extraordinary.
As a maintenance worker at Ruby
Pier amusement park, he has never
achieved anything remarkable. Then,
at the beginning of another mundane
day, the Freddy's Free-Fall ride mal-
functions and plummets to the earth
toward a little girl lying on the
ground. Eddie attempts to save her,
only to be killed himself. This is the
end of his life as well as the begin-

'Tuesdays with~ Morrie

'outesy 0th"Ce"nury ox

Did I tell you about that cougar trap?


the five people
youmeetin heaven

ning of his story,
for "all endings
are also begin-
nings. We just
don't know it at
the time."
In "The Five
People You Meet
in Heaven,"

People You
Meet in
By Mitch Albom

By Zach Borden
For the Daily
Even though the R-rated teen
comedy has been around since the
'80s with films such as "Porky's,"
it didn't really make a comeback
until the late '90s with the "Amer-
ican Pie" series. While it's unclear
if "The Girl
Next Door" is
poised for The Girl
sleeper success, Next Door
it's certainly a AtQuality16,
cut above films Showcase and
like "Euro Madstone
Trip." 20th Century Fox
"The Girl
Next Door" is the epitome of
every teenage male's fantasy. The
film focuses on Matthew Kidman
(Emile Hirsch, "The Emperor's
Club"), a straight-arrow high
school senior who's headed to
Georgetown if he can win a schol-
arship. The story kicks into high
gear when the comely Danielle
(Elisha Cuthbert, TV's "24")

moves in next door, and the two
quickly fall in love.
Just as things seem perfect for
Matthew, his world is rocked when
he discovers that she once was a
porn star. Things only get more
complicated from there, as
Danielle's ex-boyfriend - a porn
producer named Kelly (Timothy
Olyphant, TV's "Deadwood) -
drags her back into the world she
left behind. Matthew becomes des-
perate to save her and is soon
caught up in things he would never
think of doing before he met
While it could be argued that
"The Girl Next Door" is similar to
"Risky Business," the film can
claim some originality. There is an
underlying sweetness to the film's
protagonists and the love story is
surprisingly sweet. The main prob-
lem with "The Girl Next Door" is
that its story arc is incredibly
uneven. The film is supposed to be
a teenage comedy, but it ends up
being a strange hybrid that can be
described as a balance between
raunch and romance. Some scenes

Couresy 01 of20thentury Fox

I'm too sexy for my shirt.

are way too dark - like when
Kelly attacks Matthew in the car
- and director Luke Greenfield
seems to love overstuffing the
story with too many intertwining
subplots that wrap up too neatly.
The actors' performances help
elevate the film to an interesting
and respectable level. Hirsch gives
a nice vulnerability to his straight-
man role and has some great
comedic timing. The chemistry
between Cuthbert and him is good,
which makes it easier to buy into
their whirlwind romance. Still, the

standout performer is Olyphant.
He works the "friend-or-foe" angle
of his character marvelously, and
despite some scenes where he
becomes overbearing, he never
goes over the top.
"The Girl Next Door" is a like-
able movie, but it is rather pre-
dictable and feels strangely
familiar in its plotlines. While it is
not necessarily one of the better
teen comedies, it could have been
much stronger if the film's story
was tightened up and if its ele-
ments were more even-handed.

Michigander and Detroit Free Press
columnist Mitch Albom relates
Eddie's journey through the afterlife.
Eddie discovers that heaven does not
consist of fluffy, white clouds and
golden gates. Rather, it is a place
where people go to begin to under-
stand their lives here on earth.
Albom's journalistic background is
evident in his prose. He writes in a
simple and straightforward manner,
making "Five People" a quick and
easy read, much like his previous
novel, "Tuesdays with Morrie." His
latest also explores the meaning that
is hidden in the normal and everyday.
"Five People," however, does not
begin well. The first 50 pages.sug-
gest that the novel will be an overly
simplified and sentimental tale
about finding meaning in a mun-
dane existance, similar to the film
"It's a Wonderful Life." Like
George Bailey, Eddie is a little too
perfect and self-sacrificing, which
is especially true of his hereoic
death. The tale is nice, but flat and
Once Eddie's character is devel-

oped more, however, the story
improves immensely. Eddie is not an
angel after all, but has more than his
share of faults and troubles. During
his life, Eddie was not a happy man.
He was raised by a neglectful father,
was held as a prisoner of war during
World War II and was forced to give
up his dreams of traveling and
becoming an engineer in order to
take care of his mother. These
events leave him scarred and bitter;
a dark cloud hangs over him and he
feels as if his life were a failure.
Not surprisingly, once he reaches
heaven, Eddie learns that his life was
not in vain after all. There, he travels
through the personal heavens of five
people who were touched by his life.
One by one, they each teach him a
lesson until he is eventually able to
come to terms with his time on earth.
"The Five People You Meet in
Heaven," much like Eddie's life, is
ordinary. Albom does not impart
any new revelations, nor is his writ-
ing incredibly poignant. However,
like Eddie's life, the novel has its
redeeming qualities. Somehow, in;a
few key moments, Albom does
manage to touch the heart of the
reader with this simple and
straightforward tale.

Craig Barrett
Chief Executive Officer, Intel Corporation


World of Digital

Wednesday, April 14, 2004, 4 p.m.
Dorothy L. and Harry E. Chesebrough Auditorium
Chrysler Center
North Campus, University of Michigan
Dr Barrett will discuss the changes occurring
to organizations and individuals worldwide from
the use of digital technology. He will review the
trends, emerging fields and opportunities
for technology advancements.
1 8 5 4- 2 0 0 4

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