Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Neighbors "Journey to the Center of the Mall" Review

What's a show about humans and aliens living in the same neighborhood do after the first episode? Fogelman tapped into the ideas of the audience, created and nurtured through years and years of alien invasion movies involving violence, abduction, explosions, and Will Smith. Mel Gibson's arguably last good performance was in Signs, which was a thoughtful movie about people, faith and the tests of good men during moments of crisis. Fogelman’s' aliens are peaceful, uninterested in abductions or global power. They're like the Weavers. They worry about raising their children right as well as how the Weavers will affect the life they've built in the last ten years. So, essentially, The Neighbors is a story about a group of aliens who learn how to be human and exist in the world from the only family they know. Their journey begins with a trip to the center of a mall.

Malls are horrible places, my friends and well-wishers. Brodie might've inhaled the smell of his local mall in the morning and declared his love of the smell of commerce in the morning, but I'm more like Matt Embree, who questioned anyone who'd gaze upon a mall and remark, 'how beautiful.' The Weavers take the Bird family to the mall for back-to-school shopping. The family, as well the neighborhood, fears the mall. People shop in malls. The aliens may be exposed there. The mall is a place they need to experience, though, because it's part of the fabric of normalcy in the good ol' U.S. of A.

Debbie Weaver dreams of an Elysium-type existence in her neighborhood where the neighbors compliment her ass and her husband's physique. The bliss becomes nightmarish once she sees the Bird family abducting her precious children. Debbie doesn't want that. Through her anxieties we learn about the daily chat between Bird and Weaver in which questions are asked and then answered. The Birds harbor no secrets, and they stress their disinterest in abducting children. Jackie may've attempted to sacrifice her darling Dick Butkus last week, but she's ever the protective mother figure in "Journey to the Center of the Mall." Jackie worries about her children attending actual school. Debbie and Jackie soon bond over their mutual maternal worry, and they also reach a mutual understanding because of their worries. The themes of acceptance, tolerance and understanding are alive and well in the women's story.

The Neighbors reminds me of The Simpsons in a specific way. Springfield's a town populated by characters who embody Americana. The Neighbors plays in the same ball park. The mall is a great symbol of Western society. The aliens essentially confront all of America in the mall. Larry breaks down in a clothing store. He's overwhelmed by the store, by the thought of his children going to school and being with people. Marty assures him that his fears are shared by him and all fathers, once Marty realizes his eldest daughter will be a college freshmen in two years. Human and alien learns that no difference separates them in the matter of their children. That story thread seems to be the heart of the show. The secondary story thread is reactions to places like the mall or some event like an outdoor festival or public transit. The thread's good for easy laughs and whatnot.

Certainly, the show isn't going to win Emmys or cause critics to fall over themselves praising it. The jokes are easy and one-note; however, the show is really sweet, which counts for something. The Neighbors is good for families. The middle and youngest Weaver children get a few beats of their own story in which the little sister is sad her big brother ignores her. He apologizes by holding her hand. Dick Butkus helps the siblings reconcile; he's able to talk Emma's sadness out, which her older brother overhears. Amber, the disagreeable eldest daughter of the Weavers, just wants to hear she's pretty, which is a compliment Reggie Jackson's all too eager to give. Fogelman aims for the heart and hits it. The show can be lame. It's easy to make fun of. I won't mind watching the show every now and again.

Also, I thought Larry Bird rising out of the mini-vans sunroof to own the aliens' own Dominique Wilkins was funny. I laughed because authoritative British men making theatrical masculine gestures are the stuff of comedy. I have nothing else to write.


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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.