Ladies and gentlemen FamousDC presents Neighbors: The Review.
Neverland. That’s the term that one of my former coworkers used to describe D.C., a city full of people who seem to be repeatedly hitting the snooze button on their adulthood. “Just five more minutes…I have a free happy hour Thursday!” While friends and loved ones outside of the beltway marry, spawn, and apparently invest in music (that’s what CD’s are…right???), D.C. residents of all ages instead are focused on the eternal question: Do I join a kickball team or a softball team this year?
It is through this lens that we must view Neighbors, a comedy helmed by perpetual man-boy Seth Rogan (of Knocked-Up fame), Disney-built entertainment cyborg Zach Efron (come on, no real human could have those abs), and Bridesmaid’s vet Rose Byrne.
Really funny at times, but jokes that aren’t so funny put a drag on the movie’s momentum and makes it seem longer than it really is. The movie also couldn’t decide if it wanted to be frat-tastically character driven (i.e. Van Wilder) or simply be vehicle for crazy bro-driven antics (i.e. Animal House and Old School).
Unfortunately this poor pacing and inability to pick a direction hurts the film, and prevents the movie from entering the annals of great college movie lore. This is sad, because Rogen, Byrne, and Efron do a hell of a job. If you go, you will laugh; but you will also spend one too many moments “waiting for the funny” and forget the movie in its entirety within 24 hours of viewing.
The Deep Dive (Spoilers)
Lasting only one hour and 45 minutes, the movie’s running theme could be encapsulated in the phrase “Damn, getting old blows”.
The plot centers around a couple that just moved into a house with a new born baby (Be warned: for such an immature college flick, the baby’s adorableness is almost face-melting). After settling in, things go awry when a fraternity moves next door, bringing all the shenanigans that one would expect. The parents eventually call the cops, chaos ensues.
While it was not marketed as such, it is basically “Old School” for millennial. Rogan and Byrne easily represent the older millennial [i.e. 30-32], while Efron represents the younger manifestations of the generations [21-ish]. For Rogan & Byrne, the plot revolves around both parties inability to grow the hell up after having a baby. From a desire by Rogan to smoke pot on the job to a futile attempt by mom and dad to taker the baby to a rave, we are constantly confronted by arrested development on the part of these “adults”. (Side note: Bravo for the movie having BOTH Rogan and Byrnes rebel against the idea of settling down. Missing the freedom of youth and the desire to have fun is not relegated to the males of the species, and this fact sets Neighbors apart from a number of other films [i.e. Knocked-Up, Old School, Happy Gilmore, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, The Hangover, etc.]) In Efrons case we see a frat god’s struggle to accept that his world is quickly coming to an end with graduation. Each groups world is changing, and we have front row seats for it. Folks can scream all day long about their desire for change. But with change comes the unknown, and with the unknown comes fear.
Unfortunately, the movie makes two big missteps.
First the bad jokes/set pieces drag, and there aren’t nearly enough good jokes to make this ok. Running a lightning fast hour and 45 minutes, the director & writers can only pack so many jokes into such a short time frame. Add to the fact that these bad sections aren’t quickly dealt with, and you have a recipe for disaster. The drags on the film are obvious, and are long enough to take the audience out of the film multiple times.
Second, they attempted to give Efron a story arch half way through the film. It’s as if the director said, “Oh, he can act? Let’s see if we can’t give him more to do.” By not establishing Efron’s character far earlier in the film, the sudden focus on his story seems forced. It’s like they tried to get a full Van Wilder by paying half the price.
And while it wasn’t a big problem, I simply have to throw this in. There is no lead in to Rogan & Byrne suddenly deciding to grow up They just do (Hey, I told you there would be spoilers). Mind you, they do so after getting into a fist fight with a college co-ed and shooting fireworks at a cop car. They don’t see the error in their ways; they don’t experience any kind of “come to Jesus” moment. They just eat pizza in bed and say it’s ok to grow up. This is lazy writing, pure and simple. Spending all that time taking off and flying to simply mess up the landing is movie malpractice.
All in all, decent movie. If you wait for it on Netflix, that’s cool. If you see it in the theatre, that’s fine as well. But this is not a must-see by any stretch of the imagination.