If I told you that John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd made a film together one year after the classic film Blues Brothers, each still at the height of their comical powers, you’d probably rack your mind for a moment, trying to come up with a comedy masterpiece that you’d somehow misplaced in your brain. Yet, I don’t think most people have seen, or even heard, of the film Neighbors. And you certainly couldn’t call it a comedy classic. Belushi and Aykroyd try their damnedest to save the film, creating a few funny moments, but the script is so dead it's impossible to revive.
The problem starts with Belushi playing the straight-man as homeowner Earl Keese and Aykroyd playing the over-the-top obnoxious, new neighbor Vic. I usually appreciate films that try something new, but Aykroyd, who can definitely play weird, is known as a classic straight-man. (See Ghostbusters, Trading Places or Spies Like Us.) While Belushi always shined as the goofy outcast. Each are so funny in their own right that they do a decent job with their roles, but ultimately it’s a bit off-putting that they’re playing the wrong characters.
The film starts off decently enough, with Belushi and wife sitting around the house, it's another boring night after work. But something different is happening, with the long abandoned house across from them getting moved into by an odd looking couple. The doorbell rings and Belushi answers the door to Cathy Moriarty, who plays the femme fatale, sexpot Ramona to a tee, who leads Belushi into quite a few sexually awkward scenes. Soon her husband, Aykroyd, is on the scene, demanding that Belushi act the host and treat them to dinner. It’s a fairly good set-up for a comedy, but ultimately Neighbors never goes anywhere. The film takes place all in one night, with Belushi constantly being foiled by Vic or Ramona, while his wife thinks the new couple is the cat’s pajamas.
Belushi is repeatedly put into ridiculous situations, each only slightly more awkward than the last, with the film never building to any worthwhile climax. And the way each situation is set-up, the conclusion is telegraphed from a mile off, robbing most moments of its laughs. The line delivery, facial expressions and comic timing of Belushi and Aykryod keep the film from becoming a complete mess; if the film had starred two lesser comedians, it never would have seen the light of day. Director John Avildsen tries his best to dress up the story, with wacky camera angles and some other fun filmmaking tricks, but he’s completely unable to save it as well. If the script had been anywhere near decent, if it had any sense about how to build a story or set a scene, the actors may have been enough to make it a fun comedy. But as it is, Neighbors is far too big of a mess for anyone to bother, and it remains a forgotten piece in two comedy legends filmographies. – Grade: D (Seen on 6/26/08)
Best scene in the film, Belushi gets ready for a date to "Staying Alive":