When it comes to comedies, Seth Rogen has had a difficult time finding the right project for his particular talents. Having starred in a mostly-disastrous group of comedies that has included “This is the End,” “Pineapple Express,” “The Green Hornet,” “Observe and Report,” and “The Guilt Trip,” the only one from his entire filmography that stands out as having been a truly perfect fit was Kevin Smith’s outstanding “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” which wound up being one of the best films of its year. This has shown that, statistically, the films he’s in have a better chance of being good if he is not involved in the writing process, given that the few good films he’s been in have been written by someone else, including the comedy-drama “50/50.” With his latest project, “Neighbors,” his name is nowhere on the screenplay, meaning it already has a leg up on many of his previous projects, but will Rogen’s usual shtick work here despite him playing basically the same character in every movie, or is it doomed to be yet another disaster to throw on the pile?
“Neighbors” tells the story of Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne), a married couple who have recently had their first child and have sunk all their money into their new house, located in a small, quiet neighborhood. That is, until a fraternity from the local college decides to move in right next door. At first, they seem to reach an agreement with the fraternity’s president, Teddy (Zac Efron), about keeping the noise down, but after their loud partying forces them to call the cops, it becomes an all-out battle to see who will come out on top.
I’ll start off with what is probably the nicest comment one can put towards a movie like this: it’s not nearly the completely epic failure that was originally expected. As far as the plot goes, this could be a rather entertaining one. That is, if it’s done right. Unfortunately for “Neighbors,” it’s done in a pretty sloppy, unfunny way, derailing the potential that such a premise has. These are really the main reasons the film simply doesn’t work. It’s basically written as a series of gags that has the Radners trying to get the upper hand, while the frat kids try to do the same, with some overly-long party scenes thrown in for kicks.
If the gags had at least been funny, it may have been able to function on the level of a really dumb comedy, but given the fact that they aren’t, there’s not a whole lot to do except roll your eyes over and over as Rogen and co. try in desperation to make you laugh. The other semi-nice thing that can be said is that the level of humor isn’t quite as low as anticipated. There is indeed some lowbrow stuff here (the frat kids making molds of their privates, a duel with dildos), but at least the film isn’t filled with it. It even manages to garner a smile or two, but unfortunately it doesn’t elicit any good belly laughs.
To answer a question from earlier, Rogen’s shtick has gotten really old, so his presence here, playing the same old Seth Rogen character that he always does, doesn’t do the film any favors. In fact, it actually does more harm than good. Byrne and Efron do a fine job, but like the rest of the cast, they can’t work miracles by taking unfunny material and turning it into something amusing. Like with most failed comedies, the problems all stem from a script that needed a revision from someone who is actually talented in the art of comedy. “Neighbors” may be the kind of film that teenagers or pot smokers will laugh at, but for the rest of the audience, it will be nothing but a silent, watch-checking experience.
“Neighbors” hits Blu-ray with a fantastic 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that’s bright and sharp without a hint of fuzziness throughout the presentation. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is very loud, even at low volume, an element that is particularly noticeable during the party scenes that have music blasting over the soundtrack. Other than that, it’s a perfectly fine audio track that allows you to hear everything loud and clear. Overall, there’s not much to complain about in either area.
Alternate Opening/Deleted/Alternate Scenes: A large chunk of deleted material that was left out for good reason. No need to waste your time with it.
On the Set With…, The Frat, An Unlikely Pair, Partying with the Neighbors: A set of behind-the scenes featurettes that feature interviews with the cast and crew. Unfortunately they are incredibly superficial and tell you next to nothing about the making of the film, so they’re easily skippable.
Line-O-Rama: A strange extra that features outtakes/alternate takes of a scene from the film. It’s very strange how this was separated from the rest of the other alternate material. Like the rest of it, it’s not worth watching.
Gag Reel: An outtake reel that prominently features Seth Rogen’s annoying laugh over and over again, making this yet another extra to skip right over.
“Neighbors” may not be an all-out disaster, but it is an unfunny comedy that just can’t find any jokes that really hit the mark. As a result, it’s a rather dull film that wastes a potentially hilarious premise. Perhaps better writers would have been able to make use of it, injecting it with more intelligent humor instead of trying to go for the easy laugh each and every time, a method that rarely, if ever, works. Because of this, it’s simply destined to become yet another forgettable, laugh-free Seth Rogen vehicle among many others.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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