Rated R because of everything. If a raunchy comedy could offer something, it probably is covered under the R rating for Neighbors. There's nudity. There's violence. There's drugs. There's language. There's sex. There's a compound fracture. Just...it's there. Okay, it doesn't have feces. I take it back. It could offer something more to earn it a more intense R-rating. Hey, I don't think there's incest either. But be secured in knowing that Neighbors has a well-deserved R-rating.
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Stoller
I'm a dummy. I'm a guy who is wildly obsessed with rules. Rules act as a way to keep me on task and working. I created this blog with a rule for myself: If I watched a movie, I had to write about it. I watch a lot of movies, but I wanted to stop watching them passively. I wanted to watch knowing that I would be writing about it. When I was writing about Neighbors 2, I tried to link my essay on the first Neighbors movie to it. I watched it fairly recently and thought it would be a good idea to connect them. Somehow, some way, I didn't write about the first Neighbors movie. I thought that I did. I didn't. So I had to go back and rewatch Neighbors. It's never those artsy fartsy movies that fall through the cracks. I never watch The Cranes are Flying and forget to write about that. It's stuff like Neighbors that somehow doesn't get written. So I rewatched it.
I don't get how Neighbors isn't one of those movies that is quoted all of the time. As snobby as I am, a good raunchy comedy is a fun treat. Most raunchy comedies are garbage. But an occasional gem finds its way to the surface and that makes me happy. I'm not surprised that Seth Rogen is one of the big voices behind this movie because he kind of gets what makes a raunchy comedy great. But there's some craft involved in the making of a movie like Neighbors. (I am probably going to gush more about this movie than something fancy-pants. Trust me. I hate me too.) While Neighbors shouldn't even be mentioned in the same thought as the film canon, there is this idea that Neighbors punches above its weight class. Nicholas Stoller and his team made a really solid comedy off a very simple premise. They got the right actors all around. They filmed it, for a raunchy comedy, with moments that are actually kind of inspired. The best part of me tries to stay away from making an essay evaluative, but it kind of is necessary to state that there's a pretty decent movie in here, despite the fact that it claims to be a throw-away.
The movie really blurs the definition of good and bad, in terms of morality. I know that what readership I tend to gets tends to be Catholic, but I often find morally gray characters far more interesting than noble heroes and traditional villains. While the Radners are the protagonists of the film, they often kind of suck. They are fairweather friends, enjoying the spoils of having a fraternity next door. They party and befriend the neighbors for their own good. They enjoy themselves when it is convenient and they gripe when it is inconvenient. Even their friendship is manipulative. While Mac genuinely befriends Teddy, the only reason he intended to do that was to trick Teddy into keeping it down. Admittedly, the Radners have a more altruistic goal for the film, but the way they pull it off is kind of gross.
Similarly, Teddy isn't the monster that such a simple plot demands. Teddy should be the bad guy of the story. He is crass. He is selfish. A lot of the choices surround his comfort. But Teddy's character is a friendly guy. He establishes a clear code for the people he meets. If you befriend Teddy and treat him with respect, you have a friend for life. Sure, his set of rules has a lot of caveats. Often, Teddy is irresponsible enough to not consider the feelings of others before acting. But the reason that he becomes the villain of the story is that he's heartbroken that the Radners betrayed his trust. The quote that Pete does as Robert DeNiro from Meet the Parents is wildly appropriate. Mirroring the relationship in Meet the Parents, Teddy isn't the bad guy because he wants to be a jerk. The Radners did the thing that they shouldn't have. They made him care and then they took it back. At least, this is how he views it. In reality, he has the difficulties of someone in his early 20s. The world has revolved around him and the social contract is a very subjective thing to him.
It's in the characters' growth that the story develops into something interesting. If the point of this blog wasn't to dig deeper, I would probably be accurate in saying, "Bros let things goes" (inside joke for people who have seen the movie, which is the equivalent of my "pun intended" tag). This movie, like many revenge comedies, thrives in escalation. The two parties are at war and the hijinks becomes more and more intense to the point of danger. It's part of the gag, asking how far things will go. But there's this desire, especially on the part of the Radners, that people "like them." From the Radners' perspective, their internal conflict is about the fear of aging. Becoming a parent stresses the importance of the other in front of the self. Not being parents is fun. The movie never condemns having children, but just stresses that it becomes a situation of "You can't have it all." Seeing Teddy and his fraternity invokes a sense of jealousy. While the battle for the Radners may be entirely about the neighbors keeping the volume level down, it becomes about wish-fulfillment. If I can't party, nobody should party.
The night of the Radners' first party probably demonstrates the duplicity of the protagonists. (I wrote that as a topic sentence on my diatribe about Neighbors. What is wrong with me?) The Radners vocally state that they want to be well liked by cooly asking the frat to turn down the volume. Their intention is to ensure that their daughter Stella stays asleep. From this evidence alone, the characters come off as noble. It is the decision to stay for the party that makes them kind of bad people. When they head over, they are worried that the noise will keep Stella awake. But they partied there all night, leaving Stella alone. Kelly holds the baby monitor, which indicates a modicum of morality. But Stella never wakes up. She's quiet for the evening. From the frat's perspective, that level of noise doesn't wake a baby. Even the Radners, because they contributed to the noise, must admit that the noise they produce didn't wake the baby.
The next party's chaos is the one that has the Radners call the cops. In a sense of clear foreshadowing, Teddy requests that the Radners avoid calling the police. Teddy is the bad guy in this one because Mac continues to call Teddy before they eventually call the police. Two possible things could happen and the movie kind of glosses over this element. 1) The Radners are hypocrites. It shows Stella crying and the Radners unable to sleep. Are the Radners keeping her awake? 2) This party is louder. The movie probably assumes the latter, but it's odd that the first party itself was insanely intense. What made this party that much more unreasonable? Again, this entire blog is about overthinking things.
But the movie, for all its insanity, comes down to being liked. The Radners are the goofier, more drug-addled version of the Loman family. Everything comes down to being liked. Mac becomes friends with Teddy. Kelly wants to seem cool with her "Keep it down" gestures. The most mortifying moment for them, probably more than being watched having sex, comes from the knowledge that the police officer narced on their phone call. They want Teddy to like them. Some of comes from the knowledge that Teddy controls the volume of the house, but the end of the movie kind of sells it another way. Teddy and Mac maintain a bond, even though Teddy and the frat have been kicked out of their housing. Similarly, much of the montage sequences of the frat torturing the Radners involve the Radners, especially Mac, living up to the social contract of being a friendly neighbor. Kelly even bemoans, in the typical split between the heroes, that she wants to be the cool girl who does dumb stuff. She doesn't want to grow up and be an adult. She wants to be liked for her silly oafishness the same way a man is allowed to be a silly oaf.
Listen, Neighbors isn't one of those great moments in cinema. It just is a great raunchy movie that doesn't necessarily take the traditional route around a stock premise. It has these beats that make the characters lovable and complicated. It has amazing cameos and moments that are really well crafted. It makes me laugh the entire time and that's because the movie sells every beat. I had a good time watching it the first time. I had a good time with the sequel. I even had a good time watching it a second time. That's a pretty solid recommendation.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.