Neighbors

May 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Seth Rogen, Zach Efron, Rose Byrne
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Get Him to the Greek”)
Written by:  Andrew J. Cohen (debut) and Brendan O’Brien (debut)

There’s a strange trend affecting this generation’s comedy films. Each of them seems to front-load the laughs while setting the story in motion, only to sputter around near the end, sacrificing jokes in a scrambling effort to pick up some small plot thread and see it through to the end. It’s not that I expect comedies full of cussing and boobs to be tightly-plotted pieces of clockwork, but the shaggy dog nature of a movie featuring a bunch of funny people being funny can turn sloppy in a hurry. “Neighbors,” featuring the shaggiest of the shaggy dogs Seth Rogen squaring off against pretty boy Zac Efron, doesn’t manage to avoid this formula either, but at least it’s funny enough to not matter.

As a 30-something couple with a young baby and a house they’ve sunk all their money into, Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) feel as though their social lives as they knew them are gone forever. Even when plans are made to party with friends, Mac and Kelly can’t even pack up all of the baby’s things before exhaustion takes over. More worries arise when the vacant house next door becomes home to a frat house led by alpha male Teddy (Efron) and his best friend/second in command Pete (Dave Franco.) Thinking the Delta Psi boys will be a constant source of sleepless nights, Mac and Kelly venture next door to make friends and ask that they keep the noise to a minimum. Teddy agrees, but on one condition: should the frat get too rowdy, Mac and Kelly are to call him first, not the police. The agreement is put to the test the very next night, however after numerous calls, Mac can’t reach Teddy, so he calls the police. Betrayed, Teddy starts a war with Mac and Kelly, who in turn scheme to get the frat dissolved by the university.

Story-wise, “Neighbors” starts to lose steam about a half hour in, pretty much as soon as the feuding begins, leaving the middle of the film feeling undercooked and mushy. Director Nicholas Stoller doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with the warring neighbors at first, throwing some hilarious absurdity into the mix when, after Mac takes an axe to a pipe to flood their basement, Delta Psi raises an insane amount of money selling dildos molded from their own penises, earning enough from the sale to fix the basement and buy a hot tub and outdoor speakers. That’s followed up by the Delta Psi’s weirdly menacing Robert DeNiro party, wherein every member dresses as a different Robert DeNiro film character and just stares in Mac and Kelly’s living room, muttering DeNiro catchphrases. These jokes are highbrow and funny as hell, but that tone is later dropped for more run-of-the-mill shenanigans. And you know what? It’s still funny as hell.

17 Again

April 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Zach Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon
Directed by: Burr Steers (“Igby Goes Down”)
Written by: Jason Filardi (“Bringing Down the House”)

Even when out-of-body fantasies were a groundbreaking movie genre back in the 80s, there wasn’t much creative storytelling behind any of the projects with the exception of “Big” starring Tom Hanks. (Even then, “Big” wasn’t necessarily that type of movie since there wasn’t any switching of bodies between characters).

From “Vice Versa” to “Like Father Like Son” to “18 Again!,” the films told the same coming-of-age tale either about an adult wanting less responsibility or a kid wanting to experience freedom as an adult. While director Penny Marshall was able to capture all the sweet-natured and awkward moments of a boy wanting to become a man before his time in “Big,” (the role gave Tom Hanks his first Oscar nomination of his career) the others simply fell by the wayside as conventional comedies.

The same can be said about Zach Efron’s new film “17 Again.” Despite the similar title, this is not a prequel of the George Burns 1998 movie where he switches bodies with his comatose grandson. Instead, the Efron vehicle is set up like the opposite version of “Big” or more recently “13 Going on 30.” It begins with Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry), a down-on-his-luck, underappreciated sales manager in the middle of a divorce, who wishes he could turn back the hands of time and become a teenager again so he can revisit some of the questionable choices he made when he was young and dumb.

After meeting his “spirit guide,” who is working as a janitor in the hallways of his old high school, Mike is given the chance to live his teenage years over again when he is magically swept into a watery wormhole. Once out, he discovers he has transformed back into a 17-year-old. While it really isn’t necessary to explain how exactly this happens in these types of films (remember Voltron in “Big,” the oriental skull in “Vice Versa,” and the Najavo elixir in “Like Father Like Son?”), “17 Again” stands extraordinarily idle by making this portion of the script so open ended.

As a high school senior again, Mike (now played by Efron), returns to his old stomping grounds to play a personal game of “what if” all while keeping an eye on his teenage kids (Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg) and trying to find out why his wife Scarlett (Leslie Mann) has filed for divorce. Actor Thomas Lennon is an annoying thorn in the screenplay as Mike’s rich, grown-up best friend Ned, who pretends to be his father so he can enroll him back into high school.

Now back in school, we return to Mike’s glory days as he rejoins his old basketball team and attempts to find out where his life went wrong. It starts off wrong for screenwriter Jason Filardi when he puts too much emphasis on paying homage to films of the past like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Back to the Future.” While most Efron fans probably haven’t seen any of the aforementioned movies, there’s still a familiar aftertaste once “17 Again” is all said and done. Sure, it might be made for an entirely different generation, but even Efron can’t squeeze out enough charisma and charm to get past the lazy script, tween dialogue and references, and unoriginality of it all.