Quickly it becomes apparent that this 2014 “Neighbors” has no relation to the 1981 version that was, sadly, John Belushi’s final movie.
They do share the fact that neither is very good.
ABOUT THE FILM
Belushi, who died of a drug overdose in 1982, didn’t make many movies.
Two are beloved (“Animal House” 1978, and “The Blues Brothers” 1980), one’s a cult classic (“Goin’ South” 1978), one’s highly underrated (“1941” made in 1979, Steven Spielberg’s “worst” movie), and one’s a better-than-average romantic comedy (“Continental Divide” 1981, “the only time Belushi got to really act”).
Then there’s ’81’s “Neighbors,” which was highly anticipated when it arrived because it reunited Belushi with his “Saturday Night Live” buddy Dan Aykroyd. However, their idea of switching roles – originally Belushi was to be the brash neighbor while Aykroyd was set for the more passive role – clearly misfired.
Despite a massive holiday release with both actors at their peak, word got out fast that the movie was a turkey. The main actors hated director John G. Avildsen (Rocky), “Neighbors” was rewritten often and word-of-mouth killed it quickly.
This new “Neighbors” also got a massive release and opened gigantically at $51 million. It also has bad leaving-the-auditorium buzz like its (totally differently-plotted) former namesake.
And it stars an actor who is hot right now, Seth Rogen. He’s had his share of dogs like “Funny People” (2009, a Movie Man 4 – the Adam Sandler bomb) and “Guilt Trip” (2012).
His hipster popularity comes from highly overrated R-rated comedies: “Knocked Up” (2007, a 4), “Superbad” (2007, a 2, perhaps the most undeservedly beloved movie of the millennium so far, even with Rogen’s lesser role), “Pineapple Express” (2008, a 5), “Observe and Report” (2009, a 4) and “This Is the End” (2013, which the Movie Man wisely missed in theaters but caught later and rated a 5).
The Movie Man will acknowledge that, again in a small role, Rogen gets some cred for being in “Donnie Darko” (2001), for his voicing of Mantis in the “Kung Fu Panda” movies (I: 2008, a 6; II: 2011, also a 6), “50-50” (2011, a 7), and his part in the Beastie Boys’ 2011 music video “Fight for Your Right Revisited.”
But there’s little to find good about “Neighbors” – another R-rated “comedy” that’s anything but funny.
Married couple Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) have a baby. The new parents are foul-mouthed and not great at child-rearing, but they try.
When the house next door gets rented by a fraternity, led by Teddy (Zac Efron), Rogen and Byrne first try to show they’re still “cool” by partying with the boys. But the next night the noise from the place encourages the harried married couple to call the cops even though they promised Efron they wouldn’t.
So an ever-escalating war begins between the neighbors. Soon, Rogen and Byrne employ separated friends Paula (Carla Gallo) and Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) to help. Their nefarious “mission” to eject the frat seems to work, but then things get even worse.
Finally, they hatch a plan to get the frat house permanently closed – but Efron sniffs it out. However, a last-ditch idea saves the day for Rogen and Byrne.
Rogen is always likeable, if only he made more movies like “50-50.” That stoner thing is getting a little long in the tooth. But, at times here, he’s pretty funny.
So is Barinholtz. He casually casts off one-liners and really hits the homer during the Best Scene.
Rogen and Efron have a mock fight at the conclusion that has some laughs.
An air bag gag delivers and so does the early harassment Rogen suffers from the frat. And the frat boys holding a Robert De Niro party works, especially when Rogen gets exasperated because many of the punks’ impersonations are not De Niro at all.
Rogen, Byrne and Barinholtz call into a college radio station using fake celebrities to pump up a frat party, part of their master scheme.
Each has a celebrity down pat, but Barinholtz unleashes a Barack Obama that ends with the street N-word. It’s funny because it’s a dorky white guy doing it and also imagining the Leader of the Free World dropping that bomb earns a laugh.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
Almost every joke attempt in the movie fails. It’s amazing. (The audience with the Movie Man was packed and psyched for the film, but it was astonishingly silent for most of the movie.)
“Neighbors” follows the typical R-rated path of vulgarity via body fluids (a scene involving a broken breast pump is just embarrassingly dumb) and a constant barrage of the f-word. (Apparently humanity has forgotten how to speak without it.)
Then there’s the baby with a condom that’s supposed to be funny. Reproductive parts are highlighted – this is what passes for wacky to the juvenile hipster filmgoers of today.
It’s an R for everything.
Clearly there are plenty of young’uns out there who like to giggle at movies filled with exaggerated body parts and “shocking” situations amid constant cussing. Kinda sad.