Neighbors (2014): Efron Double Feature!

Neighbors (2014)

 

I’m not really sure how I feel about Neighbors. Part of me really wants to like it and wanted to before I even saw it, but another part was kind of disappointed in the final product. I think the movie is at its best when it goes to dark places and deals with actual emotions and character moments. Overall though, I can’t really say that the film was THAT funny.

 

It has the honor of being the shortest Nicolas Stoller movie I’ve seen, which is usually a big complaint people have about his films. When speaking of Forgetting Sarah Marshall or The Five Year Engagement, even people that enjoyed the films usually say that they could have easily shaved 20 minutes off of the movies for the better. I don’t necessarily agree with those sentiments, I think both films worked really well despite their running times. Neighbors is a brisk 90 minutes and I think it suffers for it. This one could have used another 15-20 minutes to flesh out some aspects and include more gags/comedic moments. There are plenty of scenes from the trailers that don’t seem to make the final cut. It seems as if it was trimmed down to avoid those kinds of criticisms, but the film could have used a little more fat.

 

The movie is about a young couple (played by Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne) who has just had a baby and are not ready to give up their youth to become fully fledged adults. A fraternity moves in next door (led by Zac Efron and Dave Franco) and acts like frats do…I guess. They are loud, they party, and they make trouble for the young couple. At first, the couple try to befriend the frat members to try to remain young and cool (and also have some clout to ask them to keep it quiet), but when this doesn’t work, they call the cops on the frat and a war-of-whatever starts between the two. The premise is basic enough and easily able to sustain a film, but the whole thing feels rushed and halfhearted at times.

 

It does contain some really good performances from all the leads, especially Zac Efron, who I’ve never really given the time of day but does some phenomenal work here as the frat leader Teddy, who is scared of the future and losing all the glory he gained throughout college. It also contains some great supporting players in the likes of Dave Franco and Ike Berinholtz. However, it also contains some actors that are criminally underused, such as Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who seemed to have a bigger part according to the trailers, but really was given nothing to do in the finished film. Also, Donald Glover (at least I’m pretty sure it’s him, it looked like him) makes an appearance early on as one half of a gay couple thinking about moving into the house next to Rogan and Byrne, but doesn’t have a single line. Jason Mantzoukas makes a brief appearance as a doctor, but only gets one line, that while funny, seems like a waste of his time and talents. Those scenes seem like they were cut down and made completely irrelevant, yet stayed in the film for some reason.

 

The main flaw of the film is the lack of actual jokes/gags. Most of the humor comes from some seemingly ad-libbed moments, like most Judd Apatow-styled comedies (my favorite being Efron and Franco’s back and forth coming up with rhymes for “bros before hos”), but is really lacking in the funny department beyond that. Don’t get me wrong, when this movie IS funny, it is really damn funny, but those moments seemed to be a little too far in between each other. The movie tries to move along so quickly that it never really gives itself the chance to take a breath and find more comedic moments in its scenes. Although I did laugh out loud several times, I was mostly waiting for the funny to really get started, but it never seemed to happen. I found myself more involved and impressed in the dramatic moments of the film, where the characters came to life as realistic people.

 

The character motivations and actions were pushed way too fast and ended up not making a whole lot of sense. They tried to get from point A to point B so quick that everything escalated like a slightly extended version of the trailers we saw prior to its release. I will say that the final fight scene between Rogan and Efron, as well as the bonding moment between Efron and Franco as the final party is being broken up, both play really well and feel earned.

 

The film is in no way a complete failure, but the promise it showed in the trailers, along with the rave reviews it was getting all over the place, left me feeling a bit let down. I would recommend seeing this film, if only for the great work put in by Efron, Franco, and a few other players, but I don’t really see myself watching this again, unless it comes out with an extended cut or gag reel included to show me what else it had to offer. It may get a little better with a second chance, but I doubt it will rise to what it could have been.

 

6 out of 10 homemade dildos

 

That Awkward Moment (2014)

 

After watching Neighbors and finding myself particularly impressed with Zac Efron’s work in it, I decided to check out That Awkward Moment, his other offering from this year that was critically panned and rather commercially unsuccessful (although certainly not a flop as it made about 26 million against an 8 million budget). I was almost expecting to find a misunderstood hidden gem in this film I didn’t give anything resembling a fuck about upon release, but I guess I was just mislead by those dreamy Efron eyes. The film does contain a few good laughs, as well as a couple of nice performances from time to time, but the final film is just a generic, by the numbers adult gross out sex film/romantic redemption story (without anything particularly gross, sexy, or romantic in it).

 

The movie is about three friends (Zac Efron, Miles Teller, and Michael B. Jordan…holy shit, that’s half of the new Fantastic Four!) that decide to make a pact to be single together after Mikey(Jordan)’s wife divorces him. Of course, once they do this Jason (Efron) and Daniel (Teller) find the girls of their dreams in artist/not-hooker Ellie (Imogen Poots) and best friend Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis) respectively. While they’re busy falling in love, Mikey tries to work things out with his wife Vera (Jessica Lucas). Things don’t work out, the other two make mistakes, there is brief breakup sadness, Mikey learns to be ok with being single, and everyone lives happily ever after, blah blah blah. Seriously, the main conflict of this movie is, “I don’t want to date this woman that is amazing and I’m totally in love with because relationships are lame, right? Plus, we made that agreement/bet/plot point!”

 

Just like Neighbors, the amount of jokes/gags is relatively low (much lower than Neighbors) and the main strengths of the film come from the performances. Even though he didn’t get a whole lot to do in this film and really annoyed the shit out of me with how many times he called the other two “Idiots”, I really liked Michael B. Jordan in this movie. He was definitely the most grounded and believable as the lowly sad-sack trying to patch things up/get over his wife. Miles Teller also did a pretty good job as the guy who falls for his best friend and definitely got the most laughs out of me with his delivery. Imogen Poots and Mackenzie Davis were both really likeable, but their obligations to the tired plot kept them from acting or retaining anger like real people. They come out as little more than romantic fodder for the leads. A brief appearance by Morris Chestnut and the conversation about how he looked like Morris Chestnut was actually really funny, but that was within the first 10 minutes and the film then struggles to find anything to reach that level (Seriously, who looks like Morris Chestnut!?!).

 

Sadly though, Zac Efron really didn’t do it for me this time. It’s weird, because his scene of accidentally going to a fancy dress up party as if it were a costume party, yet still committing to his chosen attire, was one of the funniest scenes in the film for me. But other than that and a few good lines, his overconfident and overly quick witted delivery sounded too much like the script he was given than like anything that would actually come from his own mouth. Perhaps his performance in Neighbors was a fluke do to good material, but it seems more likely that this script was just too hard to make good out of. I almost lost my eyes to the inside of my head during his public love-gesture redemption monologue. Apparently, just reciting the first conversation you had and saying sorry with tears in your eyes is enough to seal the deal (I’m a romantic at heart, but I can’t help but call bullshit on this scene).

 

That Awkward Moment isn’t all together terrible, but it suffers the fate of coming after so many movies that have done the same thing better. And I suffered by making the mistake of taking on a Zac Efron double feature when I could have been doing better things with my time, like taking on a Jean-Claude Van Damme double feature. What? I have a Bloodsport/Timecop dual DVD burning a hole in my shelf.

 

3 out of 10 awkward orange dick jokes

May 12th, 2014