39) Neighbors [5.5]

Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and Rose Byrne lead the cast of Neighbors, a comedy about a young couple suffering from arrested development who are forced to live next to a fraternity house after the birth of their newborn baby. Neighbors is directed by Nick Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek). (2014)

Some slight spoilers below…

Though Neighbors provides a bunch of hearty laughs, I can’t remember the last time I saw such a poorly scripted comedy. In one scene, the leading couple get into their first fight of the film and indicate that they’re going to separate and possibly get divorced. It almost comes out of nowhere, and doesn’t make sense with everything that led up to it. In literally the next scene, they get back together, rendering a whole ten minutes of the film pointless. Neighbors has a strong central conflict, but this one was inserted solely for the sake of upping the dramatic stakes in the second act.

There are some larger points made about coming to terms with being parents and giving up the fun that comes without being younger and without those responsibilities, but they don’t resonate whatsoever. It seemed as if Neighbors shoehorned in these portions because, you know, movies are suppose to have themes and big ideas. I just have big objection to these films doing by the numbers screenwriting 101 plot points if the actors or director aren’t going to be invested in them.

That being said, there is some surprising, new talent in Neighbors. Jerrod Carmichael is a revelation, and has some of the funniest lines in the film. And there’s Zac Efron, who should no longer be held back because of the perception of being a High School Musical alum. He’s got a lot of charm and plays the snaky aspects of his character well. I miss the range Seth Rogen showed in Observe and Report, but he does stretch his shtick a bit in Neighbors. And hats off to Rose Byrne, who I’ve never particularly liked, but gives the best performance in the movie.

Neighbors is uneven and a lot of the jokes don’t land whatsoever. It’s not necessarily a bad movie, but not one that I could strongly recommend.


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