Neighbors rocks the block, but Legends of Oz will make you want to stay in Kansas.
Here’s what to see and what to skip in theaters this weekend.
This, for all those who defend Adam Sandler dreck like Grown Ups 2 and Jack and Jill, is the smart way to make a dumb comedy. Raunchy, unrelentingly hilarious and with fully developed characters (even the himbo), Neighbors pits adults against college kids in a battle for the ‘burbs that’s as satisfying as it is ridiculous.
If we’re being honest, though, Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and his wife, Kelly (Rose Byrne), are barely grown-ups. Yes, they have a baby and a mortgage, but they’d rather split a doobie (the kids still call them doobies, right?) with the frat boys who move in next door, than scold them or, God forbid, get the authorities involved. Besides, the fellas of Delta Psi Beta, run by dim-bulb hunk Teddy (Zac Efron) and smarter, sweeter Pete (Dave Franco), seem like such charming young men. Why would there ever be a need to call the fuzz?
Of course Mac and Kelly will call the fuzz. One night of booming music and a shrieking baby shatters the truce, throwing the neighborhood into chaos, as the Greeks and the grown-ups marshal their forces to drive out the enemy. Neighbors, wisely, lets everyone fight dirty, from Pete and Teddy, who take a juvenile approach to the high jinks (starting with trashing Mac and Kelly’s lawn), to the parents, who escalate to full-on psychological warfare, trying to get the frat to destroy itself. In fact, that last bit of nastiness is Kelly’s idea, as the movie gives her as many of the punches and punchlines as the men.
Neighbors also builds its characters into more complete human beings than it has to. It’s easy to sympathize with Mac and Kelly – they’re the ones with more at stake, having sunk every dime into their house. But we also come to feel for the boys, as Teddy’s attachment to his frat and Pete’s issues as a child of divorce become real motivators for them. The balance in character depth lets Franco and Efron be just as three-dimensional, and ultimately just as funny, as veterans Rogen and Byrne. (The Mindy Project‘s Ike Barinholtz and Bones‘ Carla Gallo are also hilarious as Mac and Kelly’s best friends/partners-in-light-felonies.) The result is a comedy that isn’t just a joke machine, but a whole movie with laughs from start to finish. I’d welcome that in the ‘hood any day.
And Sure, This Too If You’re Keen
Once an inspired (and inspiring) chef, Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) now trots out boring restaurant golden oldies like a crooner who’s become a parody of himself. When a critic (Oliver Platt) calls him on it, Carl goes ballistic, the rant goes viral, and Carl goes out the door. It’s then that Chef morphs into a palatable but predictable road-trip movie, as Carl, his line cook Martin (John Leguizamo) and his son Percy (Emjay Anthony) take their new food-truck venture across the country. The grub looks amazing, but the movie never rises above being merely pleasant, even with Favreau’s Iron Man cohorts Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. in tiny roles. See it if you’re planning to hit dinner afterward.
But Skip This, No Matter How Much the Kids Beg
Legends of Oz: Dorothy s Return
There’s amazing comedic talent in this animated feature, including Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, Kelsey Grammer, James Belushi and Oliver Platt, but unfortunately, none of them had a hand in writing it. Dreadfully dull, with a plot that goes nowhere for all its meandering, Legends of Oz is a chore to sit through – and worse, one with songs.
After the twister demolishes her town, Dorothy (Lea Michele) is whisked back to Oz on a rainbow to help fight the evil Jester (Short), the Wicked Witch’s dopey brother. She’ll find new friends, including a rotund owl named Wiser (Platt), the fragile China Princess (Megan Hilty) and the stalwart softy Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), but none of them is particularly memorable. Short makes the most of his character s maniacal ways, but none of the cast can do much with the dismal script and instantly forgettable songs. Hey, if it makes you feel better, The Lego Movie is out on DVD next month. Try to hold on.