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5/6/14

NEIGHBORS (2014) - REVIEW


Like kind of a cross between Old School, Project X and Knocked Up, Neighbors promised the usual mix of slapstick chaos, gross-out humour, improv-style dialogs and observational married couple humour Judd Apatow pretty much perfected (and overused) about 12 movies ago.

Neighbors feels instantly familiar, tired even, and although you keep hoping throughout that it dares to take a darker turn at some point, or any kind of unexpected turn, taking a page out of Pacific Heights rather than every Seth Rogen film ever made, perhaps, it sadly never happens. The plot sees Mac (Rogen) and his wife Kelly (Rose Byrne) clash with a fraternity (run by Zac Efron and Dave Franco) that's moved in right next door. This leads to some bromance and heavy partying followed by a tit-for-tat battle which escalates before predictably imploding. The comedy definitely had potential in that its premise was pretty straight-forward and left a path wide open for tons of jokes and set-ups. Indeed, Neighbors has its moments including some geeky Batman talk, a recurring joke involving air-bags, a really fun cartoonish fight and an entertainingly creepy Efron who clearly missed his calling playing dead-eyed villains. Very early on, though, it's quite clear that we're not exactly in vintage Rogen territory. As good as he was in last year's This Is The End and as hard as he tries here, even he can't save such an empty, clunky script and there's no chemistry between him and Byrne. Together, they come off like two ventriloquist dummies improvising jokes for 5 minutes in every single conversation they have. At first, it admittedly gives the couple a cute sort of complicity but soon enough, you'll be wishing they just spoke to each other like normal human beings.

That's the least of Neighbors' problems, though.

The simplicity of the plot isn't so much built on as it is left completely undeveloped. Characters like each other then don't with no rhyme or reason from one second to the next, we juggle crass, unfunny American Pie 3 level humour with a frankly dull and annoying couple we're meant to be rooting for plus lame baby jokes and it just doesn't work. Even the whole frat boys thing feels forced with Efron and Franco doing the exact same bad-improv-as-dialog schtick non-stop. This all makes it a challenge to stay focused while watching Neighbors since it really has no direction or shape and, more often than not, just kills time with the odd overlong pointless sequence (the milking scene being only one of many examples) or obnoxious slow-mo montage. It's a confused and confusing flick which should put you off that kind of comedy for the rest of the Summer. Now, don't get me wrong, there's far worse out there (Haunted House 2, anyone?) and the film does have its moments, as I previously stated, it's just so poorly constructed and unimaginative that it's instantly forgettable and, since it's not particularly funny, you'll just feel like you flat-out wasted your time.

Neighbors' biggest crime may be that it's just not interesting or clever enough to hold your attention for a couple of hours and, because of that, I can't recommend it but it's definitely one of those almost-harmless duds you'll end up sitting through after clicking through Netflix in a year or so and not have the worst time ever so, as messy as it is, it's not memorably uninspired or memorable at all so there's always that.

Nay-bors.

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