Friday, May 9, 2014

Neighbors: Movie Review

Frat boys don’t up the ante of outrageous comedy but find an enjoyable middle ground.

“Neighbors” takes the appears-to-have-been-done-a-million- times-but-actually-hasn’t concept of frat boys clashing with the married couple next door and then runs with it. And run, they do. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the movie goes farther than the jokes of a prank war that is shown in the trailer. The R rating is really just for language (because, you know, they’re frat boys) and marijuana use (because, you know, they’re frat boys) and fake nudity. 2014

Directed by: Nicholas Stoller

Screenplay by: Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien

Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron

The movie was funny, but it wasn’t quite as funny as I was expecting it to be. It takes awhile to pick up as we have to replay most of the jokes from the trailer first (although I am glad to get the familiar ones out of the way), then there are a number of jokes which are just re-worded versions of earlier jokes, and the majority of the jokes are about dildos. You are going to need to find dildos hilarious otherwise this doesn’t quite match the amount of humour that was found in “This Is the End” (2013) or “Knocked Up” (2007).

For the immaturity found in the jokes, the writing was a pleasant surprise. The plot wasn’t just the escalation of a prank war but the slow maturation of four people. Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are a thirty-something married couple with a small baby. They used to party frequently and they think they still can because they’re not old and boring yet. Yes, this makes them bad parents, and on a certain level more immature than some of the frat boys next door. Teddy (Zac Efron) is the president of the frat and believes the entire meaning of life is upping the ante of the frat’s parties. Pete is his next in command, but he sees the frat as a way to have fun in college because graduation will soon come and life will follow after that. The parallels between Teddy and Pete’s friendship and Mac and Kelly’s marriage were very well handled.

The film is supposed to be an outrageous comedy and was originally supposed to be one of the best ever, given the heights that previous comedies have reached, sometimes the movie feels like we’re just waiting for a really big joke to come. Some jokes are absolutely hilarious, most are just mildly amusing, and in that regard the film can feel like a let-down.

The good news is, that Nicholas Stoller and crew knew how to edit the jokes they had. For instance, one joke from the trailer is handled so well that we don’t really see it coming, even if we know it has to be, and the result is some pure laughs. Some of the more underrated jokes work due to the order they’re presented in – which is the opposite structure of your typical joke. The Robert De Niro party also remained funny despite being in the trailer because the rest of it couldn’t be predicted.

The movie did a particularly good job with the difference in generation jokes (“Who is Batman to you?”), which stems directly from each of the main characters struggling to recognize and accept their current place in life. The jokes that didn’t work as well were mostly frat-based with an obsession with male genitalia. That was also the type of humour the movie was sold on, so the positive-to-mixed reception isn’t too surprising. The acting was great all the way around and with an actual story to the jokes, “Neighbors” works well as a comic outing. Just look out for the low-level “outrageous” comedy.

Similar Titles:

This Is the End (2013) - How to make a stoner comedy with a bunch of friends and turn it into a smart, shrewd and hilarious statement on humanity.

That Awkward Moment (2014) - Funny moments and moments that just fall flat.