Neighbors 2

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on May 25, 2016

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Dear Joel Timothy Bible
Set Educator

Dear Joel,

I’m so confused. When I saw your name listed as a “set educator” for Neighbors 2, I first assumed you tutored some of the younger actors. But I had no idea who, since there’s no one between the ages of 2 and 18 in the cast. Then I remembered Seth Rogan never actually graduated from high school, and thought maybe he was getting a real-life GED during production as an attempt to parallel the growth of his character. But that seemed unlikely. And then I thought, because of your last name – Bible (ha ha) – maybe you were just a Sunday school teacher, brought in to show these lost souls the light.

After all, there’s a familiar theme to the films and TV series you’ve worked on as a “set educator”: The Apostle, The Leftovers, Thunder Broke the Heavens, Last Days in the Desert. The list makes your inclusion in Neighbors 2 all the more baffling. In fact, it’s about the only interesting thing I’ve taken away from the film. So I hope you at least found something redeemable here.

Because God help me, I wanted to like this film. I should have liked this film. I actually watched the first Neighbors film twice, mainly because I wanted to experience it with my wife after we, too, moved into the heart of a university neighborhood with a newborn. And now, just a few years later, we’re trying to move out of said neighborhood, and away from the all-female neighbors that I actually had to testify against in court over a raucous party. In other words, I could have written the premise for this new film myself.

Instead, I kept waiting for the jokes to get funny, for the characters to get interesting, and for the story to go somewhere. The film’s biggest virtue, I suppose, is the overt and constant reference it pays to gender politics. But it’s so ham and bloody-tampon fisted that it rarely manages to do more than inspire a smile. Right from the first sex scene, where Rose Byrne vomiting on Seth Rogan is anticipated from the first couple of frames, the film felt like it was coasting on auto-pilot. There are no moments that come close to paralleling the first film’s milking of an inflamed breast, which worked both as gross-out humour and a genuinely tense and (emotionally) relatable how-did-we-get-into-this-mess parenting moment.

And then there’s the new characters. There was a lot of room to improve on the frat house actors in the first film, but really, the sorority sisters in Neighbors 2 are a sad sack of comedy. Based on the archetypes being played here, it’s clear the filmmakers watched Pitch Perfect 2, but they obviously didn’t learn how to make the group dynamics work. Even the casting of Abbi Jacobson from Broad City is treated more like a red herring for humour, where she isn’t given a single line or moment to indulge her comedic sensibilities. And in a time where pretty much every comedy show I watch on TV is centered on women (Veep, Girls, Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City) I found the lack of humour almost insulting.

So fine, Neighbors 2 is far from the second coming I had hoped for. But please, next time you’re brought in to teach a group of comedy actors the Good Word, make sure they don’t forget how to use the bad ones.



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