It’s only been two months since North Korea hacked Sony over The Interview (2014). It’s pretty crazy that in that time the movie was pulled, then released in independent theaters, then on iTunes, and gratefully on Netflix as of this week. I could understand how critics and those who went out and saw it on Christmas or bought it on iTunes would feel like The Interview wasn’t worth it (especially given the international hullabaloo), but my patience was rewarded with a very low investment, low stakes opportunity to watch it from the comfort of my couch. The downside to that is by the end I was more interested in sinking into the couch than seeing how Dave Skylark (James Franco) and Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) escape North Korea.
That said, people seem to be pretty split on whether or not The Interview is any good. It holds a 52 on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritc but the lean is toward fresh and I think I agree. The time Dave and Aaron spend in North Korea is occasionally offensive and unnecessarily graphic but I imagine they figured they might as well go all the way. It’s ridiculous and repetitive but at times it all comes together for cultural funnies; but all of that also makes it easy to disengage when it doesn’t. Though Daniel Park as Kim Jong-Un and Diana Bang as Sook are worth staying awake for.
The whole reason for the trip to North Korea centers around Dave Skylark’s increasingly popular talk show “Skylark Tonight” of which the supreme leader happens to be a huge fan. Aaron, the show’s producer, manages to score an interview, the CIA gets involved, and things get silly from there. However, the first part of the movie set in and around the TV studio featuring A+ guest parts from Timothy Simons (Veep), Anders Holm (Workaholics), Rob Lowe, and Eminem make The Interview worth a watch. There’s no more threat of World War 3 and it’s on Netflix so why not?
Speaking of the Workaholics guys, I loved seeing them as well as The Lonely Island as former Delta Psi Beta members depicting the history of drinking games at the beginning of Neighbors (2014). It was about that time during the first Delta Psi meeting led by their President, Teddy (Zac Efron) and Vice President, Pete (Dave Franco) that I knew I was going to love this movie.
I take that back. I knew I was going to love Neighbors from the very first scene where Seth Rogen as Mac talks entirely too much during sex with his wife played by the delightfully accented Rose Byrne. It made me wonder how that affects his actual sex life if at all, like, are ladies mad if he isn’t as funny during real sex?
Anyway, I thought Rogen kept The Interview afloat when Franco (James that is) goes off the rails so it was great to see him really in his element as a stoner dad, albeit more responsible than the one he played 7 years ago in Knocked Up (2007).
Whereas The Interview felt like an excuse for friends to get together and shoot a movie on location (in Vancouver) with lots of guns and explosions; Neighbors is actually a nice mix of 30something new parent and fraternity movie with a twist of Project X (2012) where a bunch of friends get together to throw some parties, wear some costumes, and have a ton of fun set to a download worthy soundtrack.
Honestly I think Neighbors is the best frat movie since Old School over a decade ago (2003). Have there even been any other watchable frat movies since Old School? There have been good college movies like The Social Network (2010), but the focus in Neighbors is more or less half being a new parent in the modern world with advanced baby monitors and half being a frat in the modern world with less hazing but the same weird traditions, shenanigans, and responsibilities (mostly not burning the house down).
That said it’s not the same as Old School, just like Old School isn’t Animal House (1978), but Neighbors carries on the tradition of giving a satirical look inside frat life and modernizes it a bit with copious amounts of weed and compassionate hazing rituals.
It all starts when Delta Psi moves into the house next door to Mac and Kelly’s relatively new place that they’ve purchased to raise their new baby girl in. In a show of good faith the two groups party and at the end of the night a pact is made for Delta Psi to keep it down and for Mac to not call the cops. Of course neither of those promises holds and, like in Old School, Delta Psi battles against the threat of being shut down, but it’s more complicated than facing a single antagonist like Dean Pritchard. Cool Dad Mac and Frat President Teddy take turns being the aggressor and the oppressed, despite their budding bromance, and the pranks reach increasingly complicated and hilarious heights.
Neighbors is so funny and right up my alley that I’m a little salty my friends didn’t tell me about it or if they did, they didn’t stress how much I’d like it. So allow me to stress that this movie is great and worth renting should you feel the need for more Seth Rogen comedy in your life or you want to see Zac Efron take the next step into what will hopefully be a career with better roles going forward.