Going into the Summer of 2014, no comedy seemed to be more of a sure-fire hit than Neighbors. Seth Rogan has been a bit of a role as of late, I think This Is The End was one of the great surprises of the previous year. It's been a while since a trailer has made me laugh as much as the trailer for Neighbors did.
Warning: The following is a spoiler-filled reaction to Neighbors. If you haven’t seen Neighbors yet, feel free to skip this post. You can likely skip the movie as well.
Sadly, most of my laughter did not continue past the trailers. Neighbors the is the latest in a long line of comedies that foolishly give away their best jokes in the previews. Most of the humor from the situation and slapstick gags were given away in order to fill the seats. I just didn't find this movie to be very funny. I sat the full theater on a Saturday afternoon. The crowd responded to the the previews and seemed energetic, This was a crowd that was ready to love this movie. Once the movie started, the theater was generally silent and never came to life. The final fight scene got a few laughs, but proved to be the exception in a movie that felt like a waste of time. That's just unfortunate.
What I found to be most interesting about this movie is that our "heroes" become more despicable as the movie goes on. I'm sure we are meant to see their transformation as they come to accept adulthood and give up the crazy days that they once celebrated, but it just falls flat. I'm amazed how the couple seems to feel no regret for the actions they take, and face so few consequences. I'm amazed that no one seems to care about how many lives of these young kids would be kicked off in such a terrible start by getting them in legal trouble in college. Sure, they made their own decisions, and I'm not arguing for their sympathy. It's just hard for me to feel sympathetic for an adult couple who spent so much time finding of ways to ruin the fraternity next-door. We are talking about a father that takes an ax to the water line in an effort to ruin their home. In what situation does it make sense for one of the most reasonable characters in the movie to shoot a Roman candle into a moving police car and receive no consequences? Nobody really learns anything in this story. Time rolls on and characters accept their lot in life. The end.
You may be saying to yourself at this moment “Well, this is silly. This comedy clearly would have no interest in ensuring that viewers were invested in these characters. We’re all just here to laugh." I'd like to agree with you, but we were repeatedly shown the interpersonal reactions of our characters on both sides (not for laughs). Although I have no background in a fraternity, I felt a deeper connection with Zac Efron and Dave Franco's characters than their neighbors. I thought that Zac Efron gave us a great performance as a Fraternity President who was so fdocused on living a year that was worthy of a legend. I just don't quite understand why he became so obsessed with the vendetta with his neighbor. Apparently his vice president, played by Dave Franco, was just as curious about the rivalry. While this right-hand man was no saint, he was the closest thing to a real person in this movie. I thought their dynamic was one of the best in the movie.
Next door, I found it hard to believe there was much substance to any relationship of our main characters. These new parents may have been looking for an escape from their responsibilities, but they didn’t seem that interested in being great parents anyway. The more the movie went on, it seems like they found it easier and easier to leave their child alone. These characters weren’t defined enough to even contrast with the frat boys next door. Perhaps it just does’t seem that odd to me when Seth Rogan spends yet another scene smoking pot at a crazy party. Perhaps I’m just not the right audience for this movie, or perhaps he is miscast in this role.
I think this premise was a promising one. I see plenty of comedy in this exaggerated situation. It was just poorly executed. Surely, there has to be a funnier way for the two groups to play off each other then for an adult to walk across the yard and take an awe to a water pipe. There's just not much that seems smart when the final conclusion is to sneak into the frat house and frame them for crimes there not committing.
I know, I’m taking this much too seriously. I'm looking for more from a movie that isn’t interested in giving me a story that feels smart or developed. Apparently, it's just looking to be dumb. That's okay, I love laughing my way through a dumb comedy. That's the problem, I didn't laugh. I'm not overly sympathetic to either group. I'm not taking it too seriously. I just didn't find it funny. When a comedy doesn't make me laugh, I can't really say that I enjoyed it. I didn't enjoy the story, I didn't left to many of the jokes, so for me it was a misfire.
I'm glad that other people seem to be enjoying the movie. I'm not entirely sure who I can see enjoying this movie, but that's okay. Whoever you are, I'm glad you had a good time. I still look forward to further comedic rolls from Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, as I think they're both very talented. I have higher hopes for Dave Franco, who seems to be getting some attention for this movie. I just won't be revisiting Neighbors anytime soon.