Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Language, Strong Crude and Sexual Content, Graphic Nudity, and Drug Use throughout
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
Written by: Andrew J. Cohen & Brendan O’Brien
Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco & Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Never in my wildest dreams have I imagined a comedy that would headline both Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, yet here we are in 2014 and this film is guaranteed to be a comedy hit of the summer. NEIGHBORS makes no qualms about the kind of movie it is. It’s earns its R rating with glee and frequently relies on profanity, bodily functions, and dick jokes. What one might not expect is that the film often does so with fleshed-out characters and a smart script. The story is raunchy, but oddly sweet in some respects. The film is also very, very funny! Paced at a perfect 96 minute running time, this is a great film to kick back, relax and get some huge laughs out of.
Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are two college sweethearts making that awkward transition into the real adulthood. They own a cozy house and are the proud parents of an adorable baby girl. The house next door is up for sale and the couple are curiously watching potential buyers/new neighbors. What they don’t expect is a fraternity populated with tons of “brothers” showing up to buy the place. After seemingly getting off on the right foot with the frat president Teddy (Zac Efron), things take a turn for the worse after Mac calls the cops with a noise complaint on their loud next door neighbors. The tides turn and any possible chance of a friendly relationship with the frat is severed. With the college boys making their life a living hell at every turn (vandalizing property and blasting loud music every night of the week), Mac and Kelly bring on a full-scale domestic war upon the heads of these punks…which escalates to insane heights.
For the ridiculous levels that things spiral out of control, NEIGHBORS has remarkable skill with its characters. Not every joke revolves around the ludicrous circumstances between the couple and the frat. Plenty of scenes revolve around the couple themselves coping with the unexpected stress of parenthood. Quite a few moments also showcase the inner workings of the fraternity. It’s also worth noting that the frat house occupants aren’t played off as one-joke stereotypes. There are some typical traits associated with these characters, but the bromance between Zac Efron and Dave Franco’s characters seemed genuine. Some very good points are made about generational gaps and the stigma that comes with growing up. It’s not like the film was profoundly deep or anything along those lines, but the story was painted with a layer of reality that made everything so much funnier than it already was. As a couple, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne have believable chemistry. They equally balanced being immature idiots and concerned parents. Every one of these touches ultimately made nearly every character compelling in their own way.
NEIGHBORS does frequently resort to crude jokes to get laughs. They are lots of sex jokes, dick references, and a scene involving breast milk that is frankly quite disgusting. Things aren’t all about the shock value though. The film never lowers itself as just a cash-in for idiots who still laugh at their own farts. There are a lot of clever interactions between the couple and the fraternity. Where the film stumbles a bit comes in the final minutes. It seems like the story had been told and the film was ready to end, but that the filmmaker and writers didn’t know how to close it out. Instead of remaining consistent with the same energy that was present for the entire movie up to that point, the film seems to lose some steam. It ultimately winds down on a silly note that had good intentions, but didn’t necessarily leave me completely satisfied. As a side note, some scenes on display in the trailers/TV spots aren’t in the film at all. They are sure to appear in the eventual Unrated version, but it’s kind of misleading to throw those into the marketing (even the most recent commercials).
Nobody is expecting NEIGHBORS to be high art and it isn’t. This is the kind of R-rated comedy that someone heads into with the expectations of getting some solid laughs at immature antics. There are plenty of those on display, but the script doesn’t settle at that point and carves out some well-developed characters as well. The movie is equally as clever as it is crude. I highly enjoyed NEIGHBORS for what it was and recommend the film to fans of Seth Rogen comedies. It’s definitely in your wheelhouse if you’re a fan of that charismatic man-child (I am one of those fans). These are some NEIGHBORS worth visiting.