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2/18/14

NEIGHBORS - REVIEW


Here's a weird one.

After the resounding success of The Blues Brothers, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi reunited in Neighbors, an odd dark comedy sold as "a comic-nightmare" (and released at Christmas, of all times) which saw the actors kinda switch roles, in a way, with Aykroyd being the loud, ebullient one and Belushi being the restrained, quiet one.

The film sees Earl (Belushi) and his wife move into a new house in an abandoned, kinda depressing corner of suburbia while these goofy new neighbours show up to drive Earl completely nuts. The neighbours in question, Vic (Aykroyd) and Ramona (a brilliant Cathy Moriarty) just show up uninvited, the latter coming onto Earl over and over with a Jessica Rabbit-style charm and the former constantly playing tricks on him and pushing his buttons. This is really more of a Tex Avery cartoon than it is a movie and, had they not made it as dark as it is, I'm sure more people would have had fun with it. The rather sombre mood toning down the cartoonish nature of the film so much that it creates a weird, otherworldly yet sorta balanced vibe. The reason for this is that Earl's character is a joyless, dull dude and the contrast between him and his nutty neighbours is represented through the film's on and off tone as well as through the characters themselves. This is really what will alienate some people: as a comedy, it's funny but subtly and darkly so when it could have easily been much more accessible. This is more the kind of film where people do and say random stuff which'll make you go "what the f***?!" until you finally get what the movie's doing. Much like Vic and Ramona, the movie itself is tricking you non-stop, dragging you into its twisted, insane world of playfully sinister nonsense.

That said, for those who embrace stranger, darker comedies like The Cable Guy or even Novocaine, then Neighbors will be something of a breath of fresh air. Here's a film which daringly ignores the obvious route to take tonally and chooses to do its own, original thing, even if that means driving every single Blues Brothers fan out the door faster than a speeding bullet. It's a shame, however, that more didn't accept this one for what it was back in the day because it probably includes Dan Aykroyd's best, most energetic and most fun performance to date not to mention a great Belushi in a rare uptight (and his last) role. I'm not mentioning the plot too much because, really, there isn't much of it: mostly, it's just Vic and Ramona messing around with Earl and pushing him to his limit. Some highlights include a tragic disagreement in a swamp, an electrified dog, Belushi's reactions to Ramona's not subtle at all advances, the fact that Earl's wife and daughter side with the neighbours non-stop despite their obvious piss-taking, and the score which is out-of-its-mind insane from start to finish. Seriously, whoever scored this movie was either having a really bad week or was taking really old, really unpredictable drugs. I could talk about the music in this movie forever but, suffice it to say, that it's about as distracting as a score could possibly get. It's so distracting, in fact, that it's like an extra character in the movie!

If you go into this one expecting a The Great Outdoors-style lighthearted comedy then prepare to be sorely disappointed. Neighbors is certainly not a hilarious, laugh-out-loud knockabout tit-for-tat comedy. Those with a darker sense of humour and fans of Belushi and Aykroyd should appreciate it, though. It's something of an underrated cult movie which more people should go back and try out.

There are very few comedies like it, if any.

Enjoyable, clever and fun but not for everyone.

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