MOVIE: Good Neighbors (2011)

I was pretty excited to see this film when I found out it was written and directed by Jacob Tierney, the same guy who made last year’s oddball comedy The Trotsky, one of my Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2010.   Unfortunately, the oddballness that made The Trotsky so much fun is completely missing from this extremely amateurish mystery.

It opens with a guy named Victor (Jay Baruchel, also the star of The Trotsky), just back from a year teaching school in China, moving into a new apartment in Montreal.  On moving day, he meets two other tenants in the building about his age, a woman named Johanne and a guy in a wheelchair named Spencer (Scott Speedman from Felicity).  Though both Johanne and Spencer are, quite frankly, prickly assholes, Victor quickly develops a crush on Johanne and the three become somewhat bristly friends.

Meanwhile, a serial killer is stalking the streets of Montreal, torturing and killing young women at random.  When one of Johanne’s workmates turns up dead, Victor insists on meeting her each evening after her shift to walk her home.  It’s not long before his crush has turned into full-on love — love she doesn’t seem to reciprocate, not that he notices.

As bodies pile up and hints keep dropping, it becomes evident that one of the three main players is the killer, but it’s hard to figure out which one.  Ordinarily, this is the kind of thing I’d appreciate in a mystery, but here it was so clearly and clumsily being done on purpose to yank us around that it was more annoying than intriguing.  Worse, though, was the fact I didn’t really care who did it anyway.  I didn’t care about any of these characters, and when the killer’s identity was finally revealed, I was torn between finding the resolution completely boring and being relieved Tierney didn’t opt for the twisty bait-and-switch I was expecting.  The bait-and-switch would’ve been predictably gimmicky, so I was glad he didn’t go that route.  But the route he did go was completely ho-hum.  So:  lose-lose for me on the final act, I’m afraid.  There was really no ending that could’ve rescued the film from its lameness.

I love Jay Baruchel, even though he plays the same character in every film he makes.  The problem here was that he was totally over-acting that character, as though he’d been instructed to “be himself” and had no idea what the director meant by that.  He ended almost every sentence with an awkwardly tacked-on “eh?” to make sure we remembered he was Canadian, and his typically adorable hangdog expression was completely lacking in charm this time, possibly because I spent most of his scenes wondering what in the hell a nice guy like that saw in the bizarrely-boring-for-a-psychotic Johanne.

And let’s not even talk about Scott Speedman, who also always plays the same character in everything he does.  That character?  A cardboard box.

Yawn.

Good Neighbors is not unwatchably awful — we’ve all certainly seen much worse.  But it doesn’t have anything interesting to offer either.  Here’s hoping Tierney goes back to wacky comedy next time, maybe trying someone new in his lead role, and that Baruchel’s  next gig forces him out of his increasingly uncomfortable comfort zone a bit.  Can’t stay on the dork train forever, dude; your fans will get bored and jump.  I’m starting to mosey toward the caboose myself and I haven’t even had a chance to make you a Boyfriend of the Week yet, man.

Thoroughly skipable.

[Prequeue at Netflix | Stream at Amazon | View trailer]

Genre:  Mystery
Cast:  Jay Baruchel, Scott Speedman, Xavier Dolan, Emily Hampshire, Gary Farmer

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