Blockbuster vs. Indie Showdown: 'Neighbors' vs. 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Blockbuster vs. Indie Showdown: 'Neighbors' vs. 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'
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In an absurd effort to compare apples and oranges, I present a series of film reviews where two films that have nothing to do with each other go head-to-head for a showdown. Bigger is not always better, but then again, sometimes it is.


Thelma and Louise? Photo: Courtesy Universal Pictures

Word of mouth convinced me that I could hope that Neighbors would be another Bridesmaids, or The Hangover. Damn you people who laugh easier than I at falling and farting humor. It's really kind of an awkward affair; isn't Seth Rogen supposed to be the frat boy, not one half of the young couple (Rogen and Rose Byrne as the Radners) you never wanted to grow up and become? And, what does it mean when the frat guy, Teddy (Zac Efron), has a better code of ethics than the normal couple with a baby? I guiltily rooted for Teddy and was sorry he didn't kick Seth Rogen's ass in their lame-o bromance fight. Not to say there isn't some good laughs in the film, where young couple goes to war with younger frat house guys over late-night noise. The best bits aren't the airbag transformed into exploding whoopee cushion slapstick, but the subtle biting stuff. A roll call of frat pledges includes names like Assjuice and Lea Michele; frat leader Teddy shows sweet uncharacteristic concern for a pledge -- odd in the frat movie world dating back to the original Animal House -- and then there's that baby calendar the Radners make at the end of the film (baby as Heisenberg with blue meth ice to suck on). I always wondered what kind of people took their baby to a rave, good to know! Then again, moral ambiguity in mainstream comedy may be a new wave in film. We have some in TV, and in shows like Veep and Moms, it's the dialog that gets the laughs.

Go or No? Um, uh, yeah, ok, go!

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Welcome to the Dollhouse Photo: Courtesy Fox Searchlight

In Wes Anderson's follow-up to The Fantastic Mr. Fox -- oh wait, this just feels like the film that should take the rightful place succeeding the fantastic The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Maybe that's because The Grand Budapest Hotel feels animated throughout with its many miniatures, stop-motion animation, and eclectic set design. In college there was that weirdo artist type in pottery class who intentionally made her vials, vases and flasks, lopsided and chromatically brilliant -- well, that's a Wes Anderson visual. Every scene is overly precious and charming, and yet I'm charmed. Influenced by the film pantheon that precedes him, Anderson's Budapest Hotel pricks Casablanca, Cary Grant movies, silent slapstick, and Merry Melody cartoons. There's an American nostalgia for a European cliché that is pre-industrial revolution, a sense that everything in the film was cut out, sewn, painted or made out of paper mache by hand, perhaps in the garage by small white mice. The artifice is adorable and funny. A combination of perfect comedic timing, old-timey inspired music, and dialog like this: "What have you done to your nails? This diabolical varnish is completely wrong," from M. Gustave (a fully submersed Ralph Finnes), the hotel concierge of a hip pre-war European hotel that makes the humor a verbal, audio and visual feast.

Go or No? GO!

The winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

All of your senses will be thoroughly entertained, yes, even your sense of taste because those little Mendel's tiered pastries that we see throughout the film, will make your mouth water, along with every frame of faux snow covered mountain peak.

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