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Netflix Review: ‘The Neighbor’ Lacks Originality

January 2, 2020
6 min read

The popularity of superhero movies has transcended national boundaries as well and ‘The Neighbour,’ a Spanish television series on Netflix proves that. It is a superhero comedy TV show that is coupled with tropes from the buddy film genre and sitcom antics. Titled ‘El Vecino’ in Spanish, it is based on the comic series of the same name by Santiago Garcia and Pepo Perez.

At first glance, especially after looking at the poster of a man dressed in a red, superhero costume passed out on a couch might give the impression that ‘The Neighbour’ might charter into the territory of ‘Deadpool.’ However, it steers clear from the quick-mouthed, profanity-filled style of almost-slapstick comedy that is seen in the Marvel movie. Instead, ‘The Neighbor’ remains grounded in a form of reality that is not witnessed by epic, fast-paced superhero action which has become dominant.

The Neighbor Plot: What is it About?

‘The Neighbor’ is a superhero comedy television series about a man who becomes a superhero. However, the first season is not really about him discovering his purpose, training to harness his true potential or even trying to save the world. Instead, it focuses on the lives of four to five characters living in the same building as their very-ordinary lives get changed after one of them becomes a superhero.

The show focuses on Javier, played by Quim Gutierrez. He is a typical, lazy, unmotivated guy in his 20s that you’d least expect to be able to take up the responsibility that comes with a superpower. He cannot even be trusted with opening a bar on time by his employer.

The series begins with Javier seeing (not technically dating) a woman named Lola who is a small-time magazine journalist. The “couple” are clearly not having the best of relationships. When they go for a short holiday over the weekend, the two witness a crash caused by a flying man in a red costume. The crash’s impact throws the couple off-balance and Lola loses consciousness.

However, Javier is unaffected and finds the flying, costumed man dead till a holographic video starts to play from an object. The video shows the deceased man introducing himself as the guardian and the protector of the cosmos. He then passes on the responsibility to Javier although he doesn’t exactly take his name. Javier takes his medallion (that helps him instantly be transferred into the red costume) and an object with multiple pills, each of which give him the powers of invincibility, super-strength and flight for some time.

Then, the show moves on to Javier discovering what the medallion and the pills can do while Lola (who has ended things with Javier) becomes one of the prominent reporters covering the story of a superhero’s appearance in the city. Hence, the season mainly revolves around Javier trying to keep his power a secret while discovering its true potential and also going through (extremely) mild introspective changes that come with his power.

The Neighbor Review:

Stepping into an already overcrowded genre, ‘The Neighbor’ might entice a few viewers due to it being an international production. However, it fails to provide add anything significantly unique to the genre. In fact, its language might be the show’s biggest constraint to achieving international success as the comedy (supposedly the series’ selling point) seems to be lost in translation.

To begin with, the series takes a very long time to develop its general direction. If you are expecting a super-evil plot that could destroy the world, you will not be satisfied. In fact, there is no action at all. The show primarily focuses on the comedy that arises when a character tries to hide his superpower while discovering it and his responsibilities himself.

Now, that could be a good source for sitcom-style comedy if executed well. However, the show seems very confused with its comedic style. There are no profanities or under-the-belt-humor that could deliver laugh-out-loud gags but it is not quite family-friendly either. Moreover, while the humor might be clean, it fails to be inventive or even funny except for a few scenes.

The above could be a result due to loss in translation as many of the situations seem to be potentially hilarious due to the characters’ situation and personalities. For instance, there is a character that resembles Kramer from ‘Seinfeld’ a lot and is quite funny to look at. However, despite the actor’s good performance, I felt like I would have found his scenes particularly rib-tickling had I known Spanish.

Moving on, the series feels extremely slow. Maybe, that is because I constantly expect something major to go down thanks to the superhero genre. However, nothing like that really happens till the fifth episode. While the pace picks up in the second half of the season, there is nothing “grand” going on. But by then, I knew not to expect anything like that as it becomes apparent that that was not going to be the series’ appeal.

Furthermore, the characters often seem unbelievable. There is a free-thinking woman named Julia for instance who suffers from what I can call the “Good Samaritan disease.” Thinking that the world is unfair, she starts an amateur initiative called “The Karma Police” to help make the world a better place. She doesn’t go around helping hungry people in Africa. She just starts by trying to track down the person responsible behind penis graffiti in the building.

Moreover, the protagonist’s character itself feels unbelievable at times. He is shown to be a good-for-nothing, lazy man in his twenties but acts extremely righteous at times. At several such moments in the show, I did not understand what really drives or motivates as his only major personal conflict in life seems to be impressing Lola.

To conclude, ‘The Neighbor’ is a slow, unoriginal superhero comedy story that you should probably skip. In all fairness, it does pick up towards the season’s latter half and ends on a fairly promising note but that still does not end up being worthy enough to save the show. If you are looking for a superhero television series, there are far better ones. Otherwise, just re-watch ‘Deadpool’ or ‘Shazam!’ if you are looking for a good laugh.

Rating: 2/5

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