Lee and her team deserve recognition for helping assemble “Destroy All Neighbors,” a comedy that’s less about the plot—or surreal humor, practical effects, or even individual performers—than its ensemble’s sketch comedy camaraderie. You may not remember this movie beyond isolated quips and gestures, but those moments will stick in your mind given how much fun the on-camera performers seem to be having in each other’s company.
There’s still a plot, albeit a familiar psychodrama about a creatively blocked artiste who accidentally goes on a spree. Will (Ray) can’t seem to wrap up his long (three years) gestating progressive prog rock (or “prog squared”) album. His girlfriend Emily (Kiran Deol) supports him anyway. Then a noisy stranger moves into the apartment next door after their old neighbor Alec (Pete Ploszek) finally sells his script. That new neighbor blasts EDM club music at odd hours of the night and looks like a cross between a bridge troll and a roadie thanks to his Popeye forearms, prominent tattoos, and newsboy cap. This is Vlad (Winter), a chummy, heavily accented Eastern-European(?) who likes saying “bro” a lot and also enjoys pushing Will’s buttons.
Will’s story only really begins after he unintentionally murders Vlad. Before that happens, Will gets into some light shenanigans as a sound mixer for Scotty (Thomas Lennon), a spineless recording studio guy who does anything to please Caleb Bang Jansen (Ryan Kattner), a tantrum-throwing musician who does a lot of drugs. Will also occasionally bumps into Auggie (Christian Calloway), a bedraggled-looking homeless guy who won’t stop bugging Will for a free croissant. Seriously, the plot’s not the priority here.
What matters more depends on your taste in hangout comedies, especially if you already like the Masada-high concepts behind certain jokes, like the running gag where Scotty tells us what he thinks rock ‘n roll is all about (he’s always wrong, of course). Or whenever “Swig” Anderson (Jon Daly), former prog-rocker turned online music guru, gives free advice to listeners, like Will, while sharing way too much personal information, including asides about alimony, his ex-partners, and oh yeah, getting rid of human remains. These jokes have amusing flourishes throughout but are usually not strong enough to carry whole scenes. That’s kind of a problem in a plot-light movie, which careens from scene to scene of a passive Will figuring out how chaotic his life can get after he (tentatively) decides to stand up for himself.