Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Neighbors; comedy, USA, 1981; D: John G. Avildsen, S: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cathy Moriarty, Kathryn Walker, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Tim Kazurinsky

Earl is a middle-aged man living with his wife Enid in a suburban home. One night, neighbors move to a house next door and introduce themselves: Vic and Ramona. Earl is immediately annoyed by Vic who borrowed his car and 32$ to buy a dinner in the city, only to keep the money and hastily prepare spaghetti in his own house. Ramona constantly pretends to seduce Earl, only to always betray and trick him. Further problems arise when Earl's teenage daughter Elaine shows up. The next morning, Vic accidentally burns his own house with a small airplane. When Enid and Elaine leave, Earl decides to escape into the unknown from his life together with Vic and Ramona in the car.

Comedian John Belushi appeared in only eight films in his entire career, before his much too early death, four of which involved a collaboration with his friend Dan Aykroyd. And while some hoped that their teaming up would again result in a phenomenal comedy such as "The Blues Brothers" or "The Rutles", their final film was the disappointing mess "Neighbors". It is peculiar how a film that starts off with such a stimulating and good opening can exhaust all its potentials and sink into juvenile buffoonery so fast. The first 40 minutes of this "annoying friends that won't go away" flick are comedy gold: director John G. Avildsen shows a good sense for comic timing thanks to observational humor or measured comic exaggerations, from the tantalizing scene where the coiled Earl hears a doorbell and opens the door when he spots the attractive Ramona in front of his entrance (equipped with almost cartoonish music) up to his interaction with the extroverted Vic who borrows his car and 32$ under the pretext that he will "buy him dinner" in the city (there is a deliciously long sequence of Earl sneaking off into the night to peek at his neighbor's window, only to spot Vic how he parked the car behind the house, kept the money and lazily just prepared spaghetti in his kitchen, nonchalantly picking up pasta that fell on the floor).

Unfortunately, 40 minutes into the film, and there is nothing more to see since "Neighbors" completely lost all of its good ideas for the rest of the running time. The remainder is only assembled out of crude, cheap or lame attempts at jokes, all of which backfire. In one sequence, Vic, wearing some diving mask, shoots at Earl in his back yard, but then recognizes him, invites him for some coffee, mentions his daughter's sex life, and then they both kick each other in the crotch. Why waste so much time on such a long, elaborated and pointless sequence that leads nowhere? In another, Earl's teenage daughter presents her edible panties and gives them to Vic to eat them. Again, a pointless scene. Even more problematic, the character's motivations change to complete opposite without explanations: throughout the film, Earl wants to get rid of Vic and Ramona, only to in the end invite them to stay and even join them on their trip and escape from his house. Why? Why would Earl suddenly switch his hate from Vic to his wife? All of this is left unexplained, leaving an uneven taste in the viewers' mouth. "Neighbors" would have worked as a short that ends after 40 minutes, because it forcefully tries to extend the thin storyline into a feature, and it shows. It was obvious someone fiddled with the script by the talented Larry Galbert, since the story seems as if someone else wrote the whole last two thirds by inserting crazy concoctions, completely ignoring the first point, though Belushi shows his comic talent as the coiled Earl in the opening act, and the movie should be seen only for this intro alone.


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