In between two major blockbusters, Amazing Spider-Man last week and Godzilla next week, we have the gross-out comedy “Neighbors” starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron and directed by Nick Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Five Year Engagement).
Neighbors follows Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), two new-ish parents who just bought a new home. Soon after get established, a new fraternity moves in next door. This frat, led by Teddy (Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), hosts parties every night and quickly annoys the new parents. However, Mac and Kelly don’t want to appear uncool and out of touch with everyone at the frat house. Things start off well enough as they party with the college kids, but everything goes awry when Mac complains about the excessive noise to the cops. At that point, the neighbors become enemies and the movie becomes a back and forth prank war.
Neighbors seems like it’s trying to make a statement about a couple who enjoyed their youth and don’t want to let it go. Mac and Kelly still want to believe they’re young at heart, but they have far more responsibility than ever and far less energy than they used to. This movie could have been a great commentary about the refusal to grow up even when you don’t have a choice. Instead, that missed plot is drowning in a sea of anatomy jokes.
Any attempt at trying to be thoughtful is lost when an entire scene is built around a shock value joke or pratfall. There is no balance to Neighbors’ humor. It constantly one-ups itself with slapstick that usually involves dudity or sex toys. Sounds hilarious, right?
Odd that a movie about finding maturity could sink to bottom-of-the-barrel gags, and does it so often.
Also, I’m having a major issue with audiences that gut-laugh at scenes that were shown prominently in the trailer; the airbag gags, for example. Those ridiculous, cartoony scenes were shown in the marketing and my crowd still went nuts for it. Perhaps it’s the type of comedy that only gets better the 6th time you’ve seen it. For me, once was enough.
To be honest, I chuckled several times in Neighbors. It’s not my type of comedy, but cheap laughs are still laughs. However, the humor doesn’t stick. I forgot about the movie as soon as the credits rolled. In the pantheon of frat house comedies (Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds), this will quickly disappear as just another Seth Rogen movie.
Now for the positive. After starring in the year’s worst movie so far, That Awkward Moment, Zac Efron has finally found the role which may change how he is perceived. He is nothing if not charismatic. His performance as the alpha male/near sociopath was great to watch. In Neighbors, he plays on the public’s perception of the D-bag we’d like to believe he is and he kills it. Though, I don’t think he could have done it without the help of Dave Franco. Or as I call him, the better Franco.
The real star of Neighbors is Rose Byrne. She builds on her comedic career of Bridesmaids and I Give it a Year with her role in Neighbors. She is better in this “bro” comedy, than most of Rogen’s male costars in his multiple other buddy comedies.
The actors were fun to watch. That’s why I’m disappointed that they all starred in a non-story driven movie with the comedic equivalence of “Me, Myself and Irene.” This type of comedy worked in the ’90s, but unlike main characters, Mac and Kelly, the audience has grown up and is slightly smarter.
Overall, there are laughs to be had. If only it was more reliant on the talents of the cast instead of the constant barrage of crassness. It’s worth renting because there are laughs, even if it is just another average comedy.
I have recently been converted to Instagram. I’ve started recording my initial reactions to screenings. The following face may not display the number of times I chuckled in Neighbors, but that’s because I was trying to burn out the overwhelming amount of prosthetics, sex toys and dudity.