Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Neighbors From Hell

"Believe me, I know women — upside down and backwards, which is not a bad way to know 'em, huh?"

Vic (Dan Aykroyd)

Whoever you are and wherever you live or have lived, you're sure to have your share of bad neighbor stories.

Unless, of course, you are a bad neighbor.

"Neighbors," which premiered on this day in 1981, was the story of the ultimate bad neighbors, I suppose, and one man's (John Belushi) response to their intrusion into his space.

"If there's one quality that middle–class Americans have in common," wrote Roger Ebert in his review of the movie, "it's a tendency to be rigidly polite in the face of absolutely unacceptable behavior. Confronted with obnoxious rudeness, we freeze up, we get a nervous little smile, we allow our eyes to focus on the middle distance, and we cannot believe this is happening to us. It's part of our desire to avoid a scene. We'd rather choke to death in a restaurant than break a plate to attract attention."

But everyone has a breaking point, and Belushi's character reached his when Dan Aykroyd and Cathy Moriarty moved into the neighborhood.

"They are everything we dread in neighbors," Ebert observed. "They are loud. They are blatant freeloaders. The man is gung–ho macho. The woman is oversexed and underloved. They park some kind of customized truck on their front lawn. They invite themselves to dinner."

Given that nugget of information, it probably isn't hard to guess how the plot unfolded — especially since it included the team of Belushi and Aykroyd.

But what was intriguing about "Neighbors" was not the sometimes predictable dialogue. It was Belushi and Aykroyd's unexpected role reversal. In most of their work together, on the big or small screen, Belushi was the wild man and Aykroyd was the plain vanilla guy.

In "Neighbors," it was the precise opposite. Belushi played Earl, a routine kind of guy living a quiet life in his little corner of the world. Then Aykroyd and Moriarty invaded.

Sadly, Belushi died a few months after "Neighbors" made its theatrical debut.

"Neighbors" was an indication of how much we lost when we lost Belushi. With Belushi and Aykroyd taking roles that were unexpected, we got a glimpse of their versatility. All their movies would not have been "Blues Brothers" retreads. Unfortunately, we never found out.

Belushi had many irons in the fire at the time of his death. One of his planned projects was to appear in "Ghostbusters" with Aykroyd.

Makes you wonder what might have been, doesn't it?