In Neighbors, new parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) have just become the proud owners of a beautiful new house in the suburbs. Attempting to meet the needs of newborn daughter Stella, the Radners have given up their days of rock concerts and late night drinking in favor of a sensible bed time. Still, Mac and Kelly aren’t complete party poopers; they smoke weed and christen every room in their new home with a love-making session, in order to preserve a bit of spontaneity in their relationship.
However, when the house next door is purchased by a fraternity led by Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) and Pete Regazolli (Dave Franco), the Radners quickly discover they’re not nearly as hip (or tolerant) as they might have thought. Several sleepless nights later, the pair call the police in a moment of desperation; unfortunately, the frat brothers find out and, as punishment, unleash a constant barrage of trash and pranks that, over the coming months, make the couple’s life a living hell. Unable to sell their home without losing a fortune, the Radners scheme-up a plan to get the fraternity evicted once and for all - just as the boys of Delta Psi are preparing to earn their place in party-throwing history with an enormous end of the year bash.
Directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Neighbors is packed with laugh-out-loud moments and sharp gags. Sensitive viewers may find select scenes offensive, but regardless of the film’s frat boy neighbor premise, Stoller rarely lingers on low brow gross outs, instead allowing his talented cast to carry the jokes. Moviegoers looking for a balanced dramedy that is equal parts comedy and impactful drama will find that Neighbors skews heavily in favor of making its audience crack up as opposed to providing relatable insight – but its hard to argue with the end result. While it might not be the deepest or most memorable comedy experience, Neighbors offers a steady stream of solid (and often outrageous) laughs.
The Neighbors setup is rife with comedic potential and Stoller succeeds in making both sides of the dispute (the Radners and the frat boys) entertaining to watch. That said, the film spends a noticeable amount of time touching on character arcs that don’t pay off. At first, the Radners and the Delta Psi guys find common ground – as the married couple tries to hold onto the excitement of their twenties, while the frat boys attempt to avoid thinking about life after college.
Throughout the film, Stoller revisits these ideas, but by the end, social commentary is sidelined in favor of comedy beats – with rushed conclusions to the conflict. Most audiences will appreciate the focus on moment to moment gags, unconcerned by any underdeveloped character arcs, but for those who expect heartfelt drama to accompany their comedy selections, Neighbors is merely a funny but somewhat callow combination.
Nevertheless, nearly every character is likable and enjoyable on screen. Rogen delivers another lovable but awkward everyman – a well-meaning guy that’s doing his best to navigate daily life as a father and husband. Fans who have enjoyed similar turns in Knocked Up or Zack and Miri Make a Porno will recognize that Rogen’s brand of comedy sets the tone for Neighbors. As a result, Rogen creates a fun platform for the rest of the cast to flex their improv muscles - especially Rose Byrne (X-Men: First Class). The actress has been groomed in supporting comedy roles (Bridesmaids, The Internship) but Neighbors puts Byrne front and center for some of the film’s biggest and most shocking laughs.
In spite of likable roles in That Awkward Moment and Liberal Arts, among others, some moviegoers still roll their eyes when they hear Zac Efron’s name; however, the young actor continues to prove that he’s more than just a pretty face. Efron’s character, Teddy, is reduced to a somewhat shallow caricature by the conclusion of Neighbors; yet, the actor ensures his malevolent frat boy is downright endearing from beginning to end – injecting a vulnerability and desperation that is often lost amidst all of his hijinks.
The same goes for Dave Franco’s Pete Regazolli who, despite his dedication to Teddy and Delta Psi, is the first to question whether the frat has gone too far. Pete isn’t much of a stretch for the young comedian, who continues to differentiate himself from older brother, James, but Franco supplies a fun foil to both Efron and Rogen in the role. The cast is rounded out with appearances from comedy vets (Carla Gallo), frequent Rogen collaborators (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), as well as a scene-stealing turn from newcomer Jerrod Carmichael (Lucas Bros Moving Co) – allowing nearly everyone involved a scene or two in the spotlight.
Ultimately, Neighbors is a smart blend of prior Stoller films – a likable mix of over-the-top comedy beats grounded with relatable characters and life scenarios. The film is more Get Him to the Greek than The Five Year Engagement, meaning that some moviegoers may leave feeling slightly underwhelmed by Stoller’s choice to highlight laughs over substance this round. However, with an incredible amount of hilarious moments to enjoy, Neighbors should have no problem entertaining most viewers. A clever premise, keen comedic talent, and a steady stream of funny antics, guarantee most moviegoers will find plenty to like (and laugh at) during this outrageous frat vs. burbs showdown.
If you’re still on the fence about Neighbors, check out the red-band trailer below:
Neighbors runs 96 minutes and is Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout. Now playing in theaters.
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