Saturday, May 10, 2014

If They Only Had Good Fences...

There are many, many, MANY versions of what Hell is like.  Many maintain that Hell is a fiery pit full of brimstone and flame where Satan tortures you for eternity.  Some maintain that it's a big, empty expanse of nothingness.  I was taught that Hell is the eternal mental agony brought on by knowing you didn't do the best you could in this life.  Some folks even think Hell is a town in Michigan.  (Tee hee!)  After watching the Seth Rogen/Zack Efron laugher Neighbors, I'm inclined to believe that Hell is having to live next to a pack of frat boys.

Neighbors isn't a story so much as a situation from which ridiculousness springs.  Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Bynre) have a pretty mellow situation going on.  They have an adorbale little baby daughter. They live in a nice neighborhood and they've got all their money invested in their home.  Okay, so having a kid makes it a little hard for them to fool around.  Other than that, things are pretty good.  Then someone buys the house next door.  Much to Mac and Kelly's chagrin, their new neighbors are a bunch of frat kids.  Noisy, constantly partying frat kids.  And on that note, the hilarity starts.

One of the fun things of a movie like this is to see supposedly grown-ass, responsible adults acting just as immaturely as the kids.  Mac and Kelly completely sink to the frat boys' level, scheming to get their organization dissolved.  Teddy (Efron) and his buddies return fire by being louder and more aggressive.  Most of the comedy in Neighbors comes from watching the adults try to outdo the kids and vice versa.

Some of the laughs come from pretty dirty material, so this isn't a movie for everyone.  For example, I don't recall Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) having many lines, but I do recall that most of his jokes involved his unusually large phallus.  That helps set up a wicked funny gag that unfolds in the end of the movie.  But it might be the kind of thing that turns folks off, so be warned.

Rogen and Byrne are pretty reliable in their performances.  I buy them as a married couple that wants to do the responsible thing but just lose control and get dragged into the scrap.  Most of the frat kids are believable as frat kids.  I was most impressed with Efron's performance.  He was perfectly cast as Teddy, an arrogant, immature college kid who never wants the party to end.  It's hard to watch him in this movie and reconcile the fact that it's the same kid who was young Simon Tam and the star of all those Disney high school sing-alongs.  I hope we'll see him do more stuff like this cuz he was hilarious.

Neighbors doesn't have an original bone in its body.  There's plenty of Animal House in the DNA, but originality isn't the point.  It's also not perfect.  Too many funny bits get dragged out too long, and when the movie tries to detour into semi-serious subplots involving Teddy's fear of the future, it really goes off the rails.  But this is a movie tasked with making you laugh.  And as long as it's doing it's job, it's a pretty damn good time.

(Note: I think I know how I'd handle it if I were in Mac and Kelly's position.  I'd start a death metal band in my garage and hope the evil-fueled rock blasting from our amps drowns out their stoner hip-hop party noise.  And the whole neighborhood would be worse off for it!)

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