If looks could kill, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World would engulf audiences in a deathly conflagration of dragon fire. The animated second sequel looks absolutely brilliant on the big screen, roaring to life in luscious detail. From the crystal-clear scale of its big set pieces to the minutia of the movement of sand and water, Dreamwork’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World splashes every penny of its 129 million dollar budget up on the screen for audiences to behold. If only they could have dumped equally as much energy and effort into the story mechanics, which are far and away the weakest of the three HTTYD films.  Read More


Out in Theaters: NEIGHBORS

I invited my good friend Matt to see Neighbors with me on Tuesday. Matt, was my fraternity’s president last year. I figured if there was anyone to watch this movie with, it’d be him. We’ve lived in the fraternity together long enough to see the pitfalls and the benefits of a lifestyle predicated on brotherly love and often times poisoned by alcohol. But, more than beer bongs and beer pong, Matt and I have come to learn that the stereotype associated with fraternity living is misplaced and disillusioned.

Total Frat Move and the bullshit that pervades today’s society are just facades: guys with small units and smaller brains trying to emulate a lifestyle that was only realistic in the ‘70s. Fraternity living is about the bond that’s shared between boys as they become men and the values and experiences that join them together. Guys who call themselves “frat” aren’t fraternal: they’re idiots. The folks who made Neighbors rely heavily upon the latter. They probably never stepped into a fraternity house in college.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) are the Radners, new parents of a young daughter Stella, live in a small cul-de-sac close to a local college. They take bad parenting to the next level: Rogen smokes weed at work, they have sex in front of their baby, and they try to take Stella to her first rave. Yet, they’re completely upset when Delta Psi Beta, a group of new-age frat bros, moves in next door. Had the casting director chosen Katherine Heigl instead, this might just be a Knocked Up sequel

DFB, led by the incessantly frustrating Zac Efron and the brother who got the bad alleles, Dave Franco, are Cro-Magnons who stumbled upon a Brazzers account instead of fire. DPsiB might as well stand for Douchebags & Pretty Boys. Their composite is riddled with guys named Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, whose “enormous penis” is cashed in for at least 20 jokes), Garf, Thumbsucker, Assjuice, Jizzface and Balldrop.

Their fraternity’s values bog down to how much one can smoke and drink without dying. Efron’s goal is to live up to past Delta Psi’s. Fun cameos from Lonely Island, Workaholics and Jake Johnson show famous Delta Psi’s who “invented” such fratty traditions as beer pong, the toga party and the boot & rally. Like any fraternity member, Efron wants to craft his own legend and put his name up on the wall.

In order to fraternize with the new neighbors, the Radners head over to party with the bros. Rogen does a ton of mushrooms, Byrne straps a baby monitor to her belt and hits the dance floor. Efron entertains them in an attempt to get them on his good side. When Rogen betrays him and calls the frat on the cops for being too loud the next night, Efron makes things personal.

Neighbors relies on the ridiculous situations that emerge when frat is pitted against innocent local middle-aged family. Efron and his crew rip the airbags out of their car, Rogen and Byrne try to start a hazing scandal. Rogen and Byrne flood the frat’s basement, Efron and his crew start a dildo fundraiser disguised as a bake sale to raise money to fix the damage. It turns into Neigh-Bros. The film feels longer than an hour and a half. Through all that, I didn’t even get to witness a beer-bong or shotgun. Disappointing.

Somewhere in the middle, Rogen’s hilarious wisecracks and the frat’s shenanigans go from raucous to atrocious. Director Nicholas Stoller, a Harvard grad who knows better, flushes the comedic toilet and clogs it with dick humor, offensive fraternity stereotypes and puke-worthy gross-out moments. They turn hazing into a joke, rape into a punch-line. At one point, Byrne spews milk from her veiny breasts. Delta Psi rips a guys’ pubes off. Then, the Radner baby fits a condom in her mouth and their doctor jokes that the baby has HIV. No laughs. The only thing that threatened to come out of my mouth was stomach acid.

Rogen makes raunchy paunchy. He’s by far the best part of this movie and the only redeeming factor that kept it from disaster. His chubby physique is pasted everywhere in this film, but sadly he doesn’t have enough weight to carry it by himself; too often he’s reduced to using his heft as a punchline like Vince Vaughn uses his height. We see him bent over his wife, or modeling in front of an Abercrombie. His ass is everywhere. He’s funniest smoking a joint and cracking wise with his buddies, but we don’t get to see nearly enough of that.

The male form has taken on a new comedic identity, seemingly since Jason Segel flopped his good-looking member out in Stoller’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But it’s hard to rationalize that the same person who made Five-Year Engagement, Get Him to The Greek and the aforementioned, made this poo-poo platter of unfunny, homoerotic, gross-out dick comedy. Somewhere along the way, he lost track of who he was. It’s just hard to believe someone this hilarious could make something as laughable as a Tyler Perry movie. I was half-expecting Adam Sandler to play the baby. Maybe that would’ve been funny.

Nevertheless, Rogen and Byrne have great chemistry, and his charm even helps humanize the atrociously bad Efron, who hasn’t gotten any better since That Awkward Moment. Cool cameos from comedians like Lisa Kudrow, Jason Mantzoukas (The League), and Natasha Leggero help the shit float, and there are some great laughs in here—notably Franco 3D-printing his penis and the frat’s careful airbag placement.

By the end, it was too traumatizing to enjoy. Normally one for gross-out raunch, this caught me off guard. Maybe it hit too close to home. Or maybe rape and hazing and dick jokes and projectile breast-milk are about as funny as domestic violence. I’ve seen one too many penises in my day. I’m on penis overload. No homo.

At the end, Rogen turns to Byrne and tells her, “things have changed… I like old people shit now.” And maybe that’s my problem. Rogen’s outgrown this dreck, and so have I. Give me a good book to read or some Game of Thrones. A younger, more impressionable Chris might have loved Neighbors, but I’m turning 20 in four days and this stuff just isn’t as funny anymore. As much as hazing and rape and ragers and alcohol addiction and guys nicknamed Spoonfeeder might be realities in the Greek world, they’re far from what fraternities stand for, and they’re way too personal issues to be remotely funny. Neighbors crosses the line into scary territory. If you’re trying to live vicariously through assholes, go ahead and read Total Frat Move.

I’ve got enough fraternity experiences to write two books. None of them resemble what I saw Tuesday night. Hell, my fraternity chapter was shut down in ’04 for being the most dangerous in the country. They had nothing on DFB. Matt gives Neighbors two stars out of five. I have to agree with him.


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