I’ve always found Seth Rogen to be very underappreciated. I’ve never met anyone who hated him, but be honest, do you respect Seth Rogen? Do you take him seriously as a comedic actor? The truth is, Seth Rogen is one of the most talented comedic minds working today, having starred in several movies that are considered among the all-time funniest, and having improvised most of his dialogue in all of them. I mean, just off the top of my head (as far as you know), there’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Superbad, Pineapple Express, This is the End, and now Neighbors, which up until a few days ago had a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 84 on Metacritic.
Of course, movies that critically acclaimed are rarely as good as they say (look at a list of movies with a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and you’ll know what I’m talking about). And of course, Neighbors is no exception. That being said, how good is it? Very. Some aspects of the movie don’t work: it’s not as funny as the other movies I mentioned, at times its raunch feels forced, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s character is pretty much just a dick joke, but what makes this movie so good is that it’s not what you expected.
The frat guys kind of like Rogen and Rose Byrne’s married couple, the whole movie isn’t just a prank war between the two of them, Zac Efron gives a very layered and interesting performance, it’s not just a frat comedy, the wife isn’t just “the wife,” and the satirical aspects of the film really work. Nicholas Stoller did a great job directing the party scenes, which feel like you’re at a party rather than watching one, and the film actually deals with some interesting themes about growing up and college life.
There’s a pretty cool use of Chekhov’s Gun in the movie, in that basically everything that happens is essential to the plot. It even pokes fun at this at one point, in a scene in which Byrne is watching the Office episode where Michael gives his “bros before hos” speech and decides to use that credo to her advantage. So often in comedies nowadays are things brought up simply for non sequitur humor, or to set up a single punchline, and are then abandoned, but in this movie, everything is forced to wrap around the plot.
My favorite part of the movie was Zac Efron. You heard me. Anyone who has seen the High School Musical movies may have assumed that he has no talent, but the truth is that no one would come off as a good actor in that role. It’s the script that’s the problem. And maybe the director. Really, everything about High School Musical is the problem, except Zac Efron. He and Dave Franco play off each other really well, and there’s an interesting bit of symbolism in that Rogen and Byrne are seasoned comedy vets, while the Delta Psi Beta guys (Efron, Franco, Plasse, etc.) are up-and-comers trying to make a name for themselves in comedic acting.
There was a bit of an SNL-type cameo corner early on in the movie, when Efron is telling Delta Psi’s latest members about the history of the fraternity. This includes cameos from the Lonely Island, the Workaholics, and Danny McBride, all of whom manage to squeeze in quite a few laughs given their five seconds of screen time.
So yeah, I give the movie an A. It looks like the search for a bad movie continues. No review next week, but I’ve already started working on my Community review and I’ll give you a few progress updates on that. There are reviews of Days of Future Past and A Million Ways to Die in the West coming very soon. Like if you like, favorite if you favorite, follow if you follow, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and as always…
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