Saturday, October 11, 2014

Movie Reviews: Neighbors

Neighbors
directed by Nicholas Stoller
This comedy film featured Seth Rogen in a lead role so I pretty much knew what I was going to get. Do you remember the first time that you fully understood you were an adult? For many Americans there's not really a bright line ritual that says after this you are a responsible member of our society. We have a legal drinking age of 21. Most states have legal ages of consent that are between 16 and 18. You can vote at 18. We speak of college "kids" but when a teen commits a crime for which we want to punish him beyond the strictures allowed by the juvenile system we talk of "young men." There have been, since the sixties, some social changes that can provide for an extended adolescence well past 18 or in some cases even past 21. Some entertainers whose teen years are far behind them often still seek to dress, act and talk like teens or young adults. I think that's silly and in some ways pathetic. It can be unhealthy for people and/or the larger society to demand too much responsibility and accountability from teenagers but on the other hand at some point you should be able to expect that someone past 21 be responsible and well, adult. The gray area between those two expectations are where Rogen has made a pretty good filmic comedy career.

Neighbors mines that gray area for all that it's worth. It's a funny film at times but much like We're the Millers I thought that the annoying insistence on gross humor, in this case excretory and sexual, didn't work. YMMV as this film did very well financially. I just didn't see the humor in one character angrily dismissing a frat pledge by telling him that another frat brother had had his penis in his mouth while he slept. The pledge proudly and unironically defended himself by claiming that he certainly wasn't asleep. Of course as mentioned this is a Rogen film so no one should be surprised. I liked the slapstick but could have done without all the gay jokes. Anyway.


Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) is married to Australian babe Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne). Their jobs aren't important. I don't even recall if Kelly works or not. What is important is that they have a newborn daughter who is the apple of their eye. However the reality of being parents means that their previously highly active, aerobic and adventurous sex life has taken a few hits. Mac doesn't want to have sex if the baby can see them while Kelly's nursing needs can interrupt their sessions. Additionally, being responsible parents means that they can't drop everything and go party with their dissolute divorced buddies Jimmy (Ike Farinholtz) and Paula (Carla Gallo). They don't have the energy for that any more. Having to clean up another human being's constant excretions, feed it at odd times during the night, and be aware of its needs 24-7 can drain a mother's and father's energy. So the couple is perched on a precipice, looking back at their old lifestyle, but not quite ready to see themselves as responsible, yuppiefied, boring adults. When a raucous fraternity headed by possible heterosexual buddies for life Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) moves in next door Mac and Kelly vacillate between being outraged that there will be numerous loud parties that interrupt their sleep and that of their daughter and intrigued that hey, they still might be cool enough to attend some of those parties themselves. 

But as the saying goes you can't really go home again. Eventually disputes get escalated and all out war breaks out. This movie wasn't quite as funny as I thought it could have been. If you've ever worked with tyrannical neighborhood associations or had disputes with neighbors over things like loud music or parking spots or the like then you know there's a lot of comedy material there. Neighbors skips over most of that and concentrates on the slapstick and the odd relationship between Teddy and Pete. There are some fun spots in the movie but the story is completely and thoroughly predictable. Race jokes, jokes that would be anti-semitic if not written by Jewish people, tons of gay jokes, and so on abound. There is plenty of cleavage, some nudity and a tremendous number of penis jokes.This is low humor. So if you're feeling in the mood for that have at it. Neighbors was okay to watch on-demand but I'm glad I didn't spend the money to see it in the theater.  TRAILER
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