Release: Friday, May 9, 2014
Oh, there’s a condom on my front lawn; I guess here goes the neighborhood.
A young married couple’s dreams of making many a wonderful memory in their first home together are dashed when they learn that a fraternity is moving in next door.
Despite said frat house being filled with rowdy, hormonal twenty-year-olds who all excel at making social connections, it’s Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) who take the first step to meet their new neighbors. Of course, their wanting to introduce themselves doesn’t come without a motive. The Radners would like to lay down some ground rules so that both parties understand one another and life may go on without incident. But after a party one night, any supposed understanding that was held between both houses is quickly forgotten and the Radners are forced to call the police after being kept awake all night.
Mac sees no reason why the phone call should cause problems. After all, they did honor Delta Psi President Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron)’s one simple rule: give him a heads-up before resorting to calling the cops. Indeed, they try their best to honor it multiple times but their calls go unanswered, which leaves Mac and Kelly with no choice but to have the party busted up. Unfortunately, the members of Delta Psi see this as a big breach of trust and an open invitation to start making life difficult for their crotchety neighbors. Pranks escalate from innocent physical gags (surprise, there’s an airbag in your couch!) to some seriously creative stunts that pose threats to public health and safety.
The same directorial vision responsible for relatively robust comedies such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek and The Five-Year Engagement is now taking American suburbia by storm. Originally titled Townies, this is a film where all of the themes are in some way, shape or form recycled from comedies of an Apatow ilk. Call it predictable, but Rogen being Rogen here just might be the best thing for this farce. Even though Stoller’s new film is moulded through formula, here the familiarity creates an experience that’s wholly surprising — if only because of how much pain and how many tears the content is capable of producing.
If comparisons help, think Superbad meets Home Alone.
Many thanks are owed to great chemistry between Neighbors‘ key players. Rogen and Byrne have an undeniable charm that actively boosts one another’s confidence, to a degree that their performances often feel improvised; performances that thrive off an uncontrollable and manic energy present in whatever room they are in. Where Byrne and Rogen must exercise caution in not overplaying their immaturity, boisterous performances from Efron and Dave Franco as fraternity leaders manage to balance maturity and all-out debauchery to the point where each character’s mental state could turn on a dime and remain thoroughly believable.
Admittedly, Efron’s a serious concern going in. He doesn’t seem to be the caliper actor one can take seriously, even when put up against the likes of a man who’s had relative success doing stoner comedies almost exclusively for a living. But preconceived notions of this Hollywood hunk are shattered when Efron reveals a fraternity president who is equal parts prideful and altruistic — convincingly so, too, as he shows compassion towards his pledges in a particular scene which likely no one is going to see coming. Its a development that truly gives Neighbors credibility as a comedy. We want to party with these people because they show some sense of decency. Contrast that to the parents, who demonstrate a surprising thirst for vengeance.
Regardless of its archetypical premise, and the fact that the story won’t exactly be seared into any viewer’s long-term memory, the new film from Stoller is the new big boy comedy on the block. Filled with strong performances — a surprisingly sympathetic Efron is arguably the largest and most pleasant surprise — and an impressive consistency with its variety of gags both perverse and clever, Neighbors is one of the best comedies of the year so far.
Recommendation: The obvious attraction is the name Seth Rogen, and coming in at a close second is the conflict he has with the neighboring frat house. Rogen not only doesn’t fall short of, but in some ways he surpasses expectations with a performance that might be his most coherent thus far. His pairing with Rose Byrne is simply perfect, but the fraternity brothers’ characterization is the real winner. They are simultaneously a blast to watch and the biggest reason to root for the older couple. If you expect things to go beyond the ridiculous, this is right up your alley. Plus, this features a full-on fight with dildos, which obviously no comedy can ever be without.
Running Time: 96 mins.
Quoted: “Infinite. . .B.J.’s. . .”
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