I’m a tough critic when it comes to comedy. I hated Bad Santa and Meet the Fockers (with Robert De Niro), but I think the fact that I liked a silly, raunchy comedy like Neighbors shows that if it makes me laugh, it doesn’t have to be Some Like it Hot, Tootsie, or Midnight Run (the best comedy De Niro will ever do).
Neighbors had Zac Efron in a scene throwing a “Robert De Niro” themed party, so I was intrigued by the fact that he’d now be starring in a movie with De Niro playing his grandfather.
The first 15 minutes were so unfunny and bizarre (De Niro not only being caught masturbating, but then holding a conversation with Efron as he finished)…I figured this movie had no hope. The few reviews I saw attacked it, and I was thinking the same. Then something happened. Things started getting funny. Sure, it was lowbrow humor, but I was cracking up. Every time Efron, as stuffy lawyer Jason Kelly, tries to explain what he does to various party girls (“Mostly SEC compliance and LCC agreements”), I’d laugh. That bit never got old.
Here’s the basic story. Kelly’s grandmother dies and his grandfather (De Niro) decides he needs to go to Florida to do some golfing, and have lots of sex. It reminded me a bit of Sideways in that regard. Kelly is about to get married, and that subplot should’ve just been scrapped. His Jewish fiancée (Julianne Hough) nags him nonstop, and we realize he’s not really in love with her. That means when he runs into a former classmate (Zoey Deutch), who shares his interest in photography — they want the audience to be rooting for that romance. It’s also supposed to give De Niro a bit of heart by wanting what’s best for his grandson. But really, it should’ve just stuck to being a crazy comedy and kept the jokes flying.
Aubrey Plaza goes against type as the party girl, although she still has that dry, sarcastic wit she usually brings to the characters she plays. A lot of her sexual innuendos got old (no pun intended), but many worked. You thought it was risqué when Juliette Lewis sucked De Niro’s thumb in Cape Fear…wait until you see what Plaza does to him.
Danny Glover has a brief scene as an old Army buddy in a nursing facility. It has mixed results.
Jason Mantzoukas (The League) has a lot of good lines as the local drug dealer (who also runs a gift shop and ice cream truck).
Dermot Mulroney plays De Niro’s son, who runs the law firm that Efron is working at. De Niro resents the fact that his son turned the grandson into the son he wanted, instead of him pursuing his own goals.
There were probably more jokes in this that didn’t land than ones that did, but I’m guessing I laughed at least 25 times. In the last Tina Fey/Amy Poehler movie Sisters, I may have laughed five times. In the comedy/drama Joy, I laughed twice.
Rapper Ice Cube may be complaining that his movie Straight Outta Compton only got one Oscar nomination, but I have to think he’ll be thrilled seeing De Niro do one of his songs in karaoke. I thought it was funnier hearing him rattle off the band members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
There were a few running gags that I can’t imagine anybody thinking were humorous (De Niro constantly sticking his thumb up Efron’s butt), but many worked. The many names De Niro would come up with for Efront (kd Lang, Cocky McBlockerson, Bubba Twatson, Alan Douche-a-witz, to name a few).
And for those that were impressed with the push-ups and pull-ups Mark Wahlberg did in the recent Daddy’s Home…well, Granddaddy looked pretty good doing a few as well. And with him always chompin’ on a cigar and beating up a bunch of guys in a parking lot…you’ll sometimes think of Cape Fear.
Listen, I’m not proud at the fact that I laughed so much during this movie. There’s no reason somebody passing out from booze (or drugs) and waking up with a penis drawn on their face should be funny. Yet it happened twice in this, and it was funny both times.
Robert De Niro was in Joy, which is a comedy/drama that may have only had one or two funny scenes in it. There’s absolutely no reason that disappointing movie should be praised by critics and this torn apart by them. It’s a raunchy comedy. If those types of films aren’t for you, skip it.
That being said, De Niro should really take a break from all the bad comedies he’s gotten involved with over the last decade. It’s a shame that he probably won’t be remembered as one of the best actors ever, if he continues down this path.
This gets 2 1/2 stars out of 5.