“Neighbors 2” & “The Nice Guys”


            Two R-rated comedies that try for very different vibes, but both are more miss than hit.

In “Neighbors 2” is a sequel to the scenario where a young couple with a new baby, Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) find that their new next-door neighbors are a rowdy, raunchy fraternity led by Terry Sanders (teen heartthrob Zac Efron).  That group of frat boys has now disbanded, but in their place is:  some wild girls wanting to start their own sorority.  It seems that they tried the traditional “rush week” on campus, but found that all the sororities were too restrictive, and the frat parties they attended consisted only of drunk, boorish guys making lewd advances (imagine that).  So the girlfriends decide they can do better.  So their first fund-raiser is selling pot at the local county fair?

            Yes, there's plenty of physical (slapstick) humor, and lots of foul language, and some attempts at gross-out humor, but the girls are supposed to be about dressing for themselves, not to make invoke guys' prurient interest, and they may have actually had a plot idea to run with, except they weren't consistent enough with it.  The not-so-nice couple next door is trying hard to sell their house, but can't catch a break trying to impress prospective buyers, partly because of all the commotion next door, which Terry Sanders first tries to lead, then aligns himself with our not-happy couple.  At the end, everyone learns to play nice, but not before a lot of shenanigans that should've been funnier but weren't.  About the only take-away from this film is the incredible screen presence of Chloe Grace Moretz, who can definitely sustain something a lot more substantial.  Here's hoping she gets the opportunity.

            “Neighbors 2” tries for a kind of 1970's L.A. Post-hippie slacker vibe, which is as difficult to attain as it is to describe.  Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a young widowed private eye with a pubescent daughter (Angourie Rice) to raise and a drinking problem.  He makes some kind of living bilking little old demented ladies out of fees for finding their missing husbands, who are really dead.  He wouldn't know a real case unless he fell into it, which he does, or a real clue unless he tripped over it, which he also does.  He meets up with a local street tough named Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), who will happily beat up people for money, but there's a more serious case here of a missing person, the daughter of an important government official (played by Kim Basinger, whose face no longer moves).

            Is it possible to display ironic nudity?  Well, maybe if it's part of a kid's dream sequence where his obsession with a pinup from a girlie magazine culminates in her wrecking her car through his house, and she's thrown from the car nude?  Yeah, about as weird as the party where the big aquarium features a couple of stripper mermaids.  But nobody's very serious about anything here, including sexuality.  It's just another facet of film-noir parody.  The characters are kind of a mess, and so is the film, but once again, there's one bright spot:  Angourie Rice, who plays the precocious young teen here, but she has the chops to take on something much more substantial.  Here's hoping that she, too, gets that opportunity.


Questions for Discussion:

1)                  When have you had a neighbor you wish you didn't have?

2)                  Who should supervise fraternities and sororities?

3)                  What's your favorite movie comedy, and what made it work?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association