After reading Wired, where writer Bob Woodward extensively covers not just John Belushi’s downward spiral, but the extremely troubled production of Neighbors which included director John G. Avildsen and John Belushi (in his final film) fighting on set, the constant rewriting and dilution of Larry Gelbart’s dark, original script, which was apparently quite close in tone to the source novel, the bad reviews, the fact that the studio shoved it out onto as many screens as possible before word of mouth got out, one would expect little in the way of coherence or humor. What is surprising, other than that Avildsen would allow Stayin’ Alive to be on the soundtrack of Neighbors, after he had been fired from Saturday Night Fever, is not that it’s unfunny, or can’t find a tone, or that the music is totally inappropriate (sounding like a Bugs Bunny cartoon, trombones and all, not a black comedy), but that it’s such a nothing movie. It’s the epitome of a cut-your-losses production, surpassing The Avengers and The Adventures of Pluto Nash.
Belushi lives a boring life. Within the first 5 minutes, Dan Aykroyd and wife Cathy Moriarity move in next door. They cause a series of low-level annoyances over a 24 hour period that (reasonably) gets under this milquetoast’s skin. For some reason, Belushi likes to have them around, despite how they abuse him so. One sitcomish slapstick property destruction after another occurs. There’s no development, because there’s no time for it. It might have worked had the time element been spread out (the entire movie takes places over this single day), but everything is done hastily, and without clarity or explanation. There are no interesting line readings, nor quirky events. It just sits there, dead, never even on the verge of breaking loose into satire, savageness, weirdness, or unpredictability. The only thing that is moderately funny is probably what got it the R rating, an interrupted blowjob scene where Belushi struggles to maintain focus.