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‘Neighbors’ wastes cast, premise

by Trevan McGee on May 9, 2014

in Print Reviews,Reviews

Everything you need to know about Neighbors, the new comedy co-produced and starring Seth Rogen, along with a supporting cast that includes Rose Byrne, Dave Franco and Zac Efron, is in the trailer. A happy couple with a newborn settles into suburban life until a frat house moves in next door and all hell breaks loose.

There’s a rich tradition of shaggy dog comedies that do well in the summertime. It doesn’t begin with Caddyshack or Stripes, nor does it end with The Hangover or Bridesmaids, but those films are all good examples, even if they aren’t all good movies. They can be runaway successes and surprise hits and effective counter-programming to the season’s blockbusters and bombast. Rogen may not have become a household name, had it not been his roles in summer comedies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Pineapple Express.

Neighbors could be a runaway success, but it’s not going to be the type of comedy with any lasting appeal. It’s a lazy, schlubby comedy that wastes a solid premise and some decent, but middling commentary on growing up vs. getting older. This is especially disappointing considering director Nicholas Stoller is responsible for some great comedies such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which had its fair share of gross-out or shock moments, but balanced them with a likable lead and relatable story to make a movie that was both funny and earnest.

Neighbors gets its best joke out of the way in the first reel when frat brothers Efron and Franco detail the history of their beloved fraternity through a series of flashbacks that feature some inspired cameos and origin stories for toga parties, beer pong and more. It’s an inspired piece of absurdity that doesn’t mesh will with the rest of the movie’s jokes, which consist of lame “I’m getting old” jokes, “I’m young and dumb” jokes and second-string gross-out humor the Farrelly brothers would have skipped.

Have you ever wanted to see joke about alcoholic breast milk and induced lactation? How about a dick joke that involves wrapping a phallus around a woman’s neck multiple times and calling it a choker? Maybe a joke-that-isn’t-a-joke about a guy who can get an erection at will? They’re all on display in Neighbors and if you thought the descriptions were funny, stop reading this and go buy a ticket, now.

For the rest of us, the movie is an awkward, forced comedy that’s too anchored in traditional movie setups and punchlines to be absurd and too lazy, predictable and tired to be funny beyond a possible chuckle.

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