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Unneighborly Neighbors: Comedic gaps in cinema

August 10, 2015

Brittany Harvey offers a much-belated criticism of  Nicholas Stoller's Neighbors (2014):


I realize writing about this movie is not exactly timely, considering when it came out, but my husband and I just watched it. It was dumb. I like a lot of dumb movies—usually those starring former cast members of Freaks and Geeks are my favorites—but even Seth Rogan could not pull this one out of the depths of its excuses for humor. Basically, it is a movie about a bunch of people who are all discontent with their present lives, who through the unsuspecting plot twists and wild antics, realize their lives are not that bad. The problem is that in order to arrive at the newly found contentment, all the characters must be absolutely, unrelenting in their awfulness toward one another. Violence, lies, deception, adultery, and tattle tales are the means every character uses to relate to one another. The depiction of humanity the movie creates is bleak, and we are supposed to laugh right along as neighbors fight each other, launch firecrackers at one another, and drink each other to oblivion.


And yet, despite the cheap excuses for comedy, the movie is not without its elements of truth. The two main characters are new parents who long for the days of attending concerts at a moment’s notice, and staying out at parties all night. Enter the new frat house neighbors. The frat president longs to be remembered forever by drunken college kids as a party legend, and is unable to face the reality of the fast approaching graduation, and the vice president longs to move on with his life. The new parents join the frat for a fun night, and they are able to forget their parent woes. The party continues the next night, and their inability to deal with the noise reminds everyone just how old they are, and just how old all the frat brothers will one day be.


I found myself relating to the parents several times. I, too, miss going to concerts, not making plans to leave the house for the evening, and playing drinking games. I related to the mother’s complaints about the “mommy bitches” in her daughter’s play group, as I am too afraid to join one because I do not think I will have anything in common with the other moms. And, when she hands the crying baby to her just home from work  husband and the baby stops crying, the husband exclaims, “Parenting is easy!” and at the end of the movie, when the couple, lying in bed, finished with their battle against the college kids, lists off the things they like about being old. And the truth is, like the married couple in this film, I also enjoy staying home in the evenings now, and while I am really good at flip cup, my life is not less full without it.

I am not sure why I felt compelled to write something about this movie after watching it. I have watched many others that are more intriguing, compelling, and poignant. Few however, are as dumb, while containing elements I relate to so deeply. Sometime the truth is not revealed artistically. Sometime it is ironically found in a pile of grotesque homemade dildos (another stupid part of the movie). And the truth is, transitions in life are always rough. We often long for past stages of our lives, and then miss out on all the good parts of our present ones. Maybe a movie that focused solely on that would be boring, cliche, or cheesy. But I am not sure why the alternative is a movie where people can only figure out how their lives are not awful by being awful to one another.


After all, I am often reminded mine is not awful, because of the amazing people in it.


Footnote: This post originally appeared on Brittany Harvey's own blog last week. Here's a link. And yes, this promotion is incestuous. 

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