Destroy All Neighbors (2024)

Destroy All Neighbors Review

Destroy All Neighbors

During the opening credits of “Destroy All Neighbors,” a comedy about irritating neighbors and a self-described “serial manslaughterer,” a few names catch your eye. There’s Rich Zim, who animated the trippy opening credits sequence where you’re sent hurtling down a long, ever-mutating tunnel of earwax, eyeballs, microchips, trees, etc. There’s special make-up effects supervisor Gabriel Bartalos whose credits include collaborations with cult-certified artists ranging from Matthew Barney to Frank Henenlotter. And then there are the headlining actors Jonah Ray Rodrigues (co-host of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”) and Alex Winter (co-director of “Freaked”), who also co-produced “Destroy All Neighbors.” You might also notice casting director Charlene Lee, whose earlier credits include “Beef” and “Fargo,” as well as a handful of standout series that put their comedic stars through various paces like “Review” and “Sherman’s Showcase.”

Lee deserves credit for helping assemble this ensemble sketch comedy camaraderie called “Destroy All Neighbors,” which is not so much about the plot or surreal humor, practical effects or even individual performers as it is about them being fun to watch on camera together. You may not remember this movie beyond a joke here or an accent there but those specific moments will stick in your memory because they look like so much goddamn fun.

There is still a plot here, Will (Ray) is having trouble finishing his long (three years) gestating progressive prog rock (or “prog squared”) album. Girlfriend Emily (Kiran Deol) supports him anyway. Then another loud person moves into the next apartment over after Alec (Pete Ploszek), their old neighbor who was always hustling scripts at them, finally sells something. This new person plays EDM club music too loudly at strange hours of the night and looks like a bridge troll fucked a roadie, with his Popeye forearms, loud tattoos and newsboy cap it’s Vlad (Winter), a chummy heavily accented Eastern-European(?) guy who says “bro” a lot and also likes pushing Will’s buttons.

But that all comes later. We’re still kind of in setup mode here for Will because before he can even be said to have gone on any sort of spree he has to accidentally-on-purpose murder Vlad. Before that happens though, Will has some light adventures while working as a sound mixer for Scotty (Thomas Lennon), a spineless recording studio guy who will do anything to please Caleb Bang Jansen (Ryan Kattner), a tantrum-throwing musician who does lots of drugs. Occasionally Auggie (Christian Calloway), a bedraggled-looking homeless guy who won’t stop bugging Will for free croissants, wanders into the mix too. Really though plot is not what we’re prioritizing here.

What matters more depends on your taste in hangout comedies, especially if you already dig the Masada-high concepts behind jokes like the running gag where Scotty tells us what he thinks rock ‘n roll is all about (he’s always wrong). Or when “Swig” Anderson (Jon Daly), former prog rocker turned online music guru, gives out free advice to listeners like Will while sharing way too much personal information including but not limited to alimony, ex-partners and oh yeah disposing of human remains. These jokes have funny bits throughout but are usually not strong enough to carry whole scenes which can sometimes be an issue in movies without much of one; this is where movie careens from scene-to-scene with passive Will figuring out how chaotic life can get after standing up for himself (tentatively).

Ray really comes alive in certain scenes. He looks as though he had just been offered a food from a foreign country which he was not sure about liking or disliking. It’s a very west coast comedy with eye-roll and laugh out loud jokes about has-been and/or self-centered artists, unoriginal movie scripts, and all day jam sessions.

He also knows how to share the spotlight. Ray bounces back ideas with his co-stars like an expert, leaving room for them to shine.

This collaborative spirit is not surprising given his years hosting “The Nerdist Podcast” and working closely with MST3K creator Joel Hodgson and his robot puppet friends. It’s still fun watching him argue with Deol, mouth off at Daly, or negotiate with some comedian who isn’t even mentioned in the opening credits but is attached to the project on IMDB (if that makes sense to you, then “Destroy All Neighbors” might be your kind of movie).

But seriously see this movie because Ray is an amazing straight man. He plays off of his co-stars in ways we don’t often get to see in comedies about squirrely introverts who flinch or shrink away from anyone who tries to talk to them (which is most people). The chemistry between Ray and the rest of the cast is so good it makes you want Will as your best friend just so you can see where the plot twist takes him next. Without this essential playfulness “Destroy All Neighbors” wouldn’t work at all I’m starting to think that Ms. Lee & co might be its true MVPs!

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