Friday, August 28, 2015

Neighbors (2014)

Year 7, Day 240 - 8/28/15 - Movie #2,134

BEFORE: Seth Rogen carries over again, and two other actors also carry over from "The Interview".  It's funny, my list of movies to watch in 2015 got flipped around several times, messed around with every few months, but still, all of the films relating to school ended up in late August + early September.  I try not to think too hard about things like that, but it just sort of happens, perhaps on a subconscious level.  So today, it's Part 1 of a 5-part Back to School series, although they won't all be in a row, much like there were gaps in my "final" boxing chain a couple of months ago.  Sometimes mortar is needed to connect the bricks.  (last year's chain was just 4 films - "Monsters University", "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion", "Clueless" and "Admission")

So far, I've been able to resist all urges to make further changes to my final 2015 film list, because I've gotten used to that plan now.  The Watchlist is still stuck at 140 films, so right now that's 77 films that are set aside for 2016, but since I knew that February was a little short, I've managed to add a few films to the romance category in the last week, taking it up to 19 films.  That's almost a full February, but I have to remember it's a leap year coming up, so I'll try to find 10 more applicable films, or if not, I'll live with the chain as is. 

THE PLOT:  After they are forced to live next to a fraternity house, a couple with a newborn baby do whatever they can to take them down. 

AFTER: This seems like it came straight from a "World's Worst" improv session - like a couple of writers were tossing story ideas around, and tried to think of what the world's worst neighbors would be like, and when they hit on a frat house, they figured the story would just sort of write itself.  I agree that the premise here is quite strong, but that doesn't allow a screenwriter to rest on that - the plot still needs to advance and have turning points, and it needs to come to some kind of logical conclusion.

There is a conclusion here, but I'm forced to question how the film got from the premise to the conclusion, and that path isn't necessarily supposed to be straight, but it's got to make sense at every turn.  This one doesn't always do that - sometimes the residents of the two houses are adversaries, and sometimes they act like friends, so it's sort of like a room where the floor is always shifting, which makes it very difficult to walk across.  Example - after there is contention between the two houses due to some loud parties, the frat boys still allow the neighbors to come to the next party.  Why would they?  I mean, they have to for the plot to advance, because that's where our heroes put their next plan in motion, but from a tactical standpoint, you don't let enemy spies into your territory.  Not if you know they're spies, and if you want to win the war.  

But the foundation of the plot is just as shaky as the floor here - why is a frat house located in a residential neighborhood, instead of on campus?  There's a half-hearted explanation, something about the frat's last house burning down, but I still find the situation to be quite unlikely.  The area's probably zoned for residential use only, and a frat house would probably not qualify, and would need to be located on school property.  

Next problem - how do a bunch of frat brothers get the money to buy a house?  Especially in a neighborhood where a (presumably) hard-working couple spent their whole life savings to buy one?  If they're college students, one could posit that they don't have full-time jobs, maybe they've got part-time gigs at the college bookstore or something, but working around a class schedule and maintaining a partying lifestyle doesn't leave much time.  So unless they've got outside funding, I can't see them scraping together enough for a down payment and a monthly mortgage - they do come up with a money-raising scheme later in the film, but it wasn't early enough to help them purchase the property. (Anyway, we're shown that they've spent all their available funds on beer, weed and fireworks - after buying a house they probably wouldn't HAVE any excess money for party supplies.)

But, let me be generous, and do the screenwriter's job for him, and assume that the frat is renting the house, not buying it.  Thus the neighbors mistake the rental agent seen early in the film for a sales agent.  This works if their previous frat house burned down, and they need to live somewhere while it's being rebuilt.  But this leads to security deposits, damage waivers, and an increased fear of throwing a wild party because then they'd waive their rights to get their deposit back, or risk being out on the street again.  Once again, the premise falls apart after reason is applied. 

Then we come to the logistical nature of a noise complaint - if you call the cops on your loud neighbors, that's a lodged complaint, no matter what.  The fact that the police showed up at all means there's a record of the complaint, even if it's made anonymously (which, as correctly depicted in the film, is not usually as anonymous as one might think).  But someone just can't say, "Oops, I rescind my noise complaint."  Too late, the cop's already there and the complaint is on the police blotter, so it's a matter of public record.  

The movie later screws up with its own premise, after the dean quotes the "three strikes" rule - if you assume that the old frat house burning down is strike one against the frat, then the party that gets out of hand is strike two, and the neighbors celebrate as if that were strike three, which it's not.  Yes, it means that possibly the frat boys will be on their best behavior in the future to avoid strike three, but that's not exactly the same thing as definitively getting rid of the frat, now, is it? 

Then we have the larger question, as to whether it's OK to become worse than your enemy in order to defeat him.  The couple depicted here has to resort to some pretty big deceptions to get the frat closed, and I'm wondering if I'm the only person who thinks they crossed the line.  I mean, they had plenty of legitimate complaints that SHOULD have been enough to get the frat closed down, it seems like a shortcoming of their characters that they had to resort to underhanded behavior themselves.  

NITPICK POINT: Shortly after entering college, I found myself on academic probation - it's a long story that I don't care to get into, but things did get crazy one night and some empty soda cans fell from our window.  The college interviewed me and all of my roommates, and once we were on probation, they told us exactly how long the probation would last, and we knew how long we had to watch ourselves carefully.  It does not just "happen" at a random time.      

There's a similar problem to "The Interview" here, as the writers/directors just can't resist comedy that appeals to the lowest common denominator - so it's physical humor about people having sex, guys making molds of their dicks, and even a mother being "milked" by her husband.  While I admit these things seem a little more fitting here in a teen comedy than they would in a political satire, I still think the standards could have been a bit higher.  

Also starring Rose Byrne (last seen in "The Internship"), Zac Efron (last seen in "Me and Orson Welles"), Dave Franco (last heard in "The Lego Movie"), Carla Gallo (last seen in "We Bought a Zoo"), Ike Barinholtz (last seen in "Shrink"), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (last seen in "This Is the End"), Lisa Kudrow (last seen in "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion"), Jerrod Carmichael, Hannibal Buress, Halston Sage, Craig Roberts, Brian Huskey, with cameos from Andy Samberg (last seen in "Grown Ups 2"), Adam Devine, Blake Anderson, Anders Holm (also carrying over from "The Interview), Randall Park (ditto), Jake Johnson (also last heard in "The Lego Movie").

RATING: 4 out of 10 De Niro costumes

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