Full disclosure: The clip above is 97% of the reason I rented Neighbors. Dave Franco’s impression of Robert De Niro and Christopher Charles Mintz-Plasse’s “Hoo Ah!” nearly convinced me to see Neighbors in theaters. Good comedies are hard to come by and without the filter of time (and reviews) I normally don’t spring for a box office ticket. I can’t remember the last comedy I saw in theaters but a cautious guess would be Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues which has enough credit built up from the original for me to part ways with my money.
During the opening segments of Neighbors I found myself regretting the delay I took in catching Seth Rogen and Zac Efron’s college-themed comedy. It didn’t take long for that sentiment to fade. While the banter between Rogen and Efron starts out strong, the movie falters as soon as the opening act ends and the neighborly rivalry between Rogen and Efron’s fraternity begins. The film delivers a handful of entertaining pranks but nothing close to what it would need to be a full success. One of the most advertised pranks involving some pilfered air bags smacks of repetition, feeling like a watered-down “Slap Bet” from How I Met Your Mother and is ultimately wasted by sub-standard CGI. Something about rendering pranks in computer animation feels unclean. If the prank is so severe that you need a computer to portray the act, then it should be left on the cutting room floor. Animal House and Old School (two films with similar concepts) don’t use CGI and Neighbors certainly doesn’t conquer any more ground for the College Comedy genre than those two classics. (Now that I think about it, I do hope that some special effects were used for Old School‘s Cinder Block Trust Fall).
In the interest of even fuller disclosure, I should note that I did not enjoy This is the End as much as most people but I did like that movie more than Neighbors. Others will appreciate this film more but there’s a ceiling to dildo jokes. And it’s a low one. This movie does have its moments. I found myself laughing during the film’s first third before predictability set in and inspiration flickered out for the remainder. Well over 80% of the film’s laughs are in the trailers so you’re not getting too many more moments with a full viewing.
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A rare comedy entry to the Flashforward series, Seth Rogen’s Neighbors is like an inverted Old School (2003). With Old School we watched adult men, in various stages of exiting marital life, start a fraternity and convince college students to escalate their pranks and antics to maintain their independence and escape adult life. Here, Rogen and Byrne are a young couple just starting to build a family who engage in war with a fraternity next-door. Either way, the outcome for the audience seems assured and Neighbors figures to be one of the better comedies of recent memory.
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