Review by Ken Burke Neighbors
Laughs, I’ve had a few, but then again, this movie’s bawdy. And should you watch? Well, you might, especially if you like it naughty. But through it all, when there was doubt, they scarfed it down and barfed it out, then traveled every silly highway, but more, much more than this, they didn't do it my way (which is OK, but for me, the ideas too few to mention—sorry, spirit-Frank, I couldn’t resist; it came to me in a beer-bong-haze and I had to go with it)
[Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ brilliantly insightful reviews. This is how we write, so as to explore what must be said as art transcends commerce (although if anyone wants to pay us for doing this ...); therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when ready to be transported to—well, wherever we end up.
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In my previous posting (about Godzilla and The Double, May 15, 2014) I predicted that Godzilla would bump Neighbors off of the top spot at the box-office last weekend after the latter would enjoy only 1 week at #1, which the monster (in more ways than one) movie did with a massive opening (not that it was much of a risky prediction; the odds were probably better in favor of the Lizard King gobbling up your money than they were for my new-favorite-stallion, California Chrome, to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, although Ride On Curlin was coming up strong at the end of the Preakness run; train hard for the Belmont Stakes, Chromie), so even though Neighbors (Nicholas Stroller) was strong enough to bump The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Marc Webb) from its victory pedestal after a likewise measly 1 week at the top (despite his big-opening-impact and #3 position for the domestic take so far this year, Spidey’s newest episode’s starting to fall fast enough that even his fabulous webbing may not cushion the bump, although I did like this one quite a bit—4-star-review in our May 8, 2014 posting—and am looking forward to the distant next installment in this franchise, set for June 2016), I put off this scuz-fest-Animal House (John Landis, 1978)-wannabe until now because, honestly, I don’t have that much to say about it and was hoping to somehow link it up (or relegate it to second-tier-status) with something else; however, my entertainment time has been shifted over the past week out of dark movie houses to locations where I’ve had a fabulous view of San Francisco Bay (the annual Greek Festival at Ascension Cathedral in Oakland last Friday, the opening of the Mountain Play Association’s revival of South Pacific at the amphitheater high up on Mt. Tamalpais over in Marin County on Sunday), along with an opportunity for my head-cold-burdened wife, Nina, to catch up on Godzilla on Saturday (I saw it at a preview screening last week), so all I’m left with is Neighbors, which you’ve probably already seen by now if it was a compelling interest for you or aren’t likely to bother if you think you can predict what you’d find in this raunchy offering just from looking at the trailer (in which case you’d be right), but the positive reviews were just strong enough not to ignore so I had to see it for myself. If you haven’t watched a movie lately with an approaching-middle-age-couple adjusting to their new baby as they get involved with the nightly debauchery of a just-moved-in-next-door-fraternity and are yearning to see such, then you might want to catch Neighbors before X-Men: Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer) and other openings start chasing it from the screens (it’s dropping at about the same rate as The Amazing Spider-Man 2, although it will easily top the $100 million mark so expect to keep seeing Seth Rogen in this type of physical farce for the next few years), but otherwise suffice it to say that beyond the earnest investment of the leads in making this task-accomplishment comedy (one of the oldest tropes in the cinematic version of this genre) come to life, you wouldn’t be missing anything if you saved your money for some other cinematic option (possibly Godzilla—if you like that sort of absurdity-spectacle—which has already taken in more than Neighbors even though it hasn’t even been out for a week yet).
The premise of Neighbors is simple enough: a not-as-young-as-they’d-like-to-consider-themselves-couple, Mac (Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne, who really steals the movie with her increasingly-unhinged-persona in various scenes), have a new child, Stella (Elise and Zoey Vargas), they’ve moved into what they feel is their ideal family home in the suburbs, then they’re suddenly overwhelmed by the intrusion of Delta Psi Beta, whose nightly party antics would put other Greeks to shame (well, maybe not the ones I just saw in Oakland; those guys really know how to rock a roasted-lamb-on-a-spit and several cases of retsina as they dance into the night) because they’re determined to do something by the end of the school year to get themselves into their infamous fraternity’s hall of fame. The initial attempts at peaceful coexistence go well, mainly because on the first night the Radners get down themselves, well into the morning hours, just to show that they’re still wild at heart (Kelly’s clear-headed enough—barely—to keep tabs on the baby monitor so that she’s secure in the knowledge that Stella’s sleeping through all of the noise next door), with the agreement that any future problems can easily be worked out man-to-man between Mac and ∆ Ψ ß president Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), with support from his loyal second-in-command, Pete Pegazolli (Dave Franco, younger brother of James) rather than calling the cops. That strategy breaks down the very next night when Mac’s attempts to call Teddy to turn down the noise result in no answer (How could anyone hear a phone in that din?), followed by a decision to notify the police because going next door in person would be considered “too lame” (one of many absurd plot holes needed to steer this story to conclusion—others include the frats moving so far away from the campus to begin with and the situation that all of the other neighbors can be bought off with one simple afternoon of kind acts by the guys so that no one else ever complains despite the constant insufferable partying every night [it’s clear that, except for Pete who does go to class enough to have a good shot at a post-college-career, none of the Delta Psi’s have ever heard of an Honor Roll, unless they think it’s an expensive brand of toilet paper; Teddy says his GPA is in the “high 1’s”). However, one narrative absurdity’s called out in the movie when Mac doesn’t realize that his plea to the cops will target him via Caller ID (I guess as he gets older he forgets which century he’s in) so he’s the one “busted” as far as his young neighbors are concerned (even his withdrawal of the noise complaint doesn’t halt their wrath of his “code” breaking) and the war is on, with the Radners forced to stay put because all of their savings is invested in this house which they can’t sell because no other buyer would want the hell that they’ve encountered. From there, Neighbors is just one strategy after the next by Mac and Kelly (resulting in broken water mains, dildo sales to finance the repairs, air-bag-propulsion jokes, and other forms of down-and-dirty-humor) to either force the frats to sell their house or to be suspended by a less-than-cooperative-school-administrator, Dean Carol Gladstone (Lisa Kudrow), although one of the frat antics does result in a probation decree. Mac’s final option is to fake a rescinsion of the decree, which encourages the Delta Psi’s to launch their long-dreamed-of-party-for-the-ages that Mac is sure will result in the needed suspension.
However, Teddy gets wind of the trick, then turns off the power from a main switch in his inaccessible-to-all-others-bedroom before oddball Officer Watkins (Hannibal Buress) arrives, so the final conflict is about Mac and Kelly trying to get access to the precious power switch, a failed attempt that’s countered by Kelly shooting an explosive firecracker into the police car just as Watkins is leaving in conjunction with their friend, Paula (Carla Gallo), seducing one of the frat boys, Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), to open up the auxiliary power box which restarts the out-of-control-party. Teddy finally shows some responsibility by encouraging Pete and some of the other more-promising-brothers to clear out so that he can take the rap for the destruction, which brings all of the hostilities to a halt along with the suspension of the chapter which forces them to sell the house, finally bringing peace to the Radners. Months later we find out that Delta Psi has been reinstated in a house finally closer to campus, Teddy is working as an Abercrombie and Fitch shirtless-male-model so that he can show off his muscles enticing customers into the store (he’s also taking night classes to finish his degree, demonstrating his long-hidden-inner-decency), while Mac and Kelly have accepted their responsible-parent-post-partying-lifestyle in order to focus on their daughter, rejecting the pleas of Paula, now reunited with wacky-former-ex-husband, Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz), to find a sitter and come boogie with them (a temptation they were loath to resist at the start of the story, refusing to see themselves as too old and settled down to be that removed from the wild life that come calling for them, as they clearly enjoyed their indulgences that first night at Delta Psi). If you’re about 40 years younger than me (which would still put you at post-frat-status) or see yourself as still in tune with obviously-exaggerated-gross-out-humor (with the ultimate scene being the one where Kelly’s desperate to empty the built-up-fluid from her breasts but Mac accidently breaks her pump so he has to do it by hand, leading to the inevitable cow-comparison-jokes [“Be a man and milk me!”]) than you might enjoy Neighbors a lot more than I did (and, believe me, I’m no prude—see the music suggestion below; I did find enough hearty laughs at the whole crazy situation to go with a generous 3 stars but even that’s getting perilously-close to my normal-high-level of 4 to make me a little nervous—I guess I’m even farther down the grumpy-old-man-road than Mac is, at least where this particular jock-itch-humor-level-story is concerned), but I get even more satisfaction in a much quicker dose just by watching my chosen musical metaphor of the week, a tune that sums up everything functional about the laughs in Neighbors, the well-known-bit from TV’s Saturday Night Live (first aired on December 16, 2006) performed by The Lonely Island, featuring Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg, “Dick in a Box” at http://vimeo.com/54415061. To keep my Google censors at bay I’ll make this educational by giving you a version from vimeo with the lyrics subtitled in Spanish so you can work on your bilinguality, muchacos. (Or, if you miffed about my rewrite of one of Frank Sinatra's signature tunes, "My Way" [lyrics by Paul Anka, music from Claude François and Jacques Revaux's 1967 "Comme d'habitude," on Sinatra's 1969 My Way album] in my opening plot summary way back up at the top of this review, here's the original at https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=Fj5wnWpECLs [from London's Royal Festival Hall, 1971] just to keep you smilin', 'cause when you're smilin' the whole world smiles with you—just like in this video of that song by Louis Armstrong [written by Larry Shay, Mark Fisher, and Joe Goodwin; first recorded by Louis in 1929] with some very lovely imagery at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkBOu-9qy44—maybe even all the way through Neighbors if you can dig it; oops, I'm showing my age again.)
Otherwise, adiós for now, because that’s all from me this week as I’m heading on a short vacation to see the giant trees in Sequoia National Park (unless Godzilla’s used them for a barbeque to roast up those MUTOs—if you haven’t seen that movie yet, you can look up my review noted above for an explanation), but I’ll be back soon with commentary on the new X-Men experience and whatever else I can squeeze into my busy schedule. (Or maybe whatever’s within walking distance as Nina and I find out what’s going on with our car’s suddenly-faulty-transmission; where’s that comprehensive-insurance-payment from your car being smashed by a passing fire-breathing-dinosaur when you need it so you can by a new—or, more likely, another used—one? Anyone out there got a great deal on a not-too-beat-up-jalopy? If so, let me know.)
If you’re interested in learning more about Neighbors here are some suggested links:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAwhQZ8O0A4&oref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DAAwhQZ8O0A4&has_verified=1 (this trailer keeps the raunchy content of the R rating but you may have to sign in to verify that you’re 18 to watch it; if you want a PG version of the trailer instead, here’s one at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kL5c2szf3E4)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVp1WYUvDTQ (6:31 answers from Seth Rogen and Zac Efron to fan questions on a Moviefone Unscripted segment, much in the spirit of this movie)
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P.S. Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.