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Review: Surveillance pranks go wrong in tedious ‘Good Neighbor’

“The Good Neighbor”
James Caan in the movie “The Good Neighbor.”
(Vertical Entertainment)

Bulletins from the world of bad teenage decisions would seem to suggest that parental worries about playing with matches have now been eclipsed by what can be inflicted with recording devices. As director Kasra Farahani’s “The Good Neighbor” makes tediously clear, nothing good can — or does — come of prankish high-schoolers Ethan (Logan Miller) and Sean (Keir Gilchrist) subjecting the cranky, lonely old man (James Caan) across the cul-de-sac to an “experiment” using multiple surveillance cameras, sound emitters and remote-triggered technology.

Their goal is to make the unsuspecting codger believe he’s being haunted, although the dreary lack of suspense in this tweaked “Rear Window” scenario, and our inability to care one whit for two cruel, arrogant bullies operating under a perceived notion that they’re social scientists, makes this one tough going.

Every so often, Farahani shifts perspective, sometimes to a future trial that hints at the bad end to come, and sometimes to what Caan’s stern-faced character experiences puttering around his darkly lighted home, which include flashbacks to a wife (Laura Innes) the boys suspect he mistreated. But the film version of Tom Waits’ infinitely creepier spoken-word track “What’s He Building?” this is not.

Any movie that leeches the perverse fun out of illicit voyeurism, then tosses in a grim gotcha of an ending to make everyone feel worse, when the kids’ actions are distasteful enough, is worth avoiding. Go see “Don’t Breathe” again instead.

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‘The Good Neighbor’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

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Playing: Vintage Los Feliz 3

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