Plot: Earl (John Belushi) has a quiet, comfortable life in the suburbs, not too much excitement, which is just how he likes things. But when new neighbors move in next door, Earl’s quiet life is soon disrupted and before long, things spiral into nearly total chaos. While he isn’t eager to meet the neighbors, his wife Enid (Kathryn Walker) could use some social time and so when she pushes him to do so, Earl invites the new arrivals over for a visit. Vic (Dan Aykroyd) and his wife Ramona (Cathy Moriarty) couldn’t be much more different than Earl and Enid, colorful and over the top people who seem to always be on the hunt for a good time. What starts as a simple dinner tumbles downhill into one wild situation after another, leading Earl to wonder if he has lost his mind or traveled to some alternate dimension.
Entertainment Value: Neighbors is one wild ride, a dark and often surreal comedy that takes frequent collaborators John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, but switches their usual roles around. The narrative plays on familiar themes, but puts all kinds of twists and turns around every corner, which keeps you hooked in. I love how Neighbors is able to manipulate viewer expectations, sometimes going the polar opposite of what most movies would do, but then knowing when to stay grounded, to keep things up in the air as to what might happen next. And in this case, you never know if there’s a reasonable explanation for what is going on or some almost supernatural source, the movie just that strange at times. I do think some comedy fans might be put off, not just because of the dark, offbeat sense of humor involved, but the rather slow pace at which Neighbors unfolds, as well as the surreal elements that creep in. Some of the humor is silly and over the top, some is just plain awkward, and then Neighbors sometimes has a random, head scratching kind of approach. In other words, this is not a typical, run of the mill comedy, not by a long shot. But I think fans of the cast will have fun here, as will those who appreciate a dark, creative comedy now and then.
I love that Neighbors flipped the usual roles for the leads here, with John Belushi as the meek stuffed shirt and Dan Aykroyd as the zany, over the top new neighbor. This helps the movie seem a little more Twilight Zone inspired, though Belushi is able to get some of his subversive persona across, even in this more restrained performance. He is hilarious as the uptight Earl and plays the material straight for the most part, save some awkward attempts at humor. Those flopped jokes are even more humorous than some of the ones that work, thanks to Belushi’s performance. Aykroyd goes for broke in the outlandish role of Vic and really dials up his persona to the moon, one of the most manic efforts of his career. He is able to swing back down to the ground with ease however, when Vic needs a softer side to manipulate someone or make us wonder if he is really all that crazy after all. The two are hilarious together and really play off each other well, carrying the movie throughout. The cast also includes Cathy Moriarty, Kathryn Walker, and Tim Kazurinsky.