2014, R, 96 mins.
2014, R, 96 mins.
Seth Rogen as Mac Radner / Rose Byrne as Kelly Radner / Zac Efron as Teddy Sanders / Dave Franco as Pete / Ike Barinholtz as Jimmy / Halston Sage as Brooke / Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Scoonie / Lisa Kudrow as Carol Gladstone / Hannibal Buress as Officer Watkins / Jason Mantzoukas as Dr. Theodorakis
Directed by Nicholas Stoller / Written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien
What NEIGHBORS does is not entirely novel (gee, yet another frat house/party comedy and one about warring neighbors to boot) and it’s almost impossible to reflect on the film without pondering past examples of the genre, such as ANIMAL HOUSE and OLD SCHOOL.
what the film lacks in brazen originality it more than makes up for it in
terms of its high and consistent laugh quotient and for the freshness of
its approach to the otherwise generic material. Yes,
NEIGHBORS is a go-for-broke and never-look-back frat comedy of unrelenting
lewdness, but it also has legitimately interesting things to say about the
perils of getting older and starting a family while desperately trying to
relate to a younger generation. That,
and it willfully and cheerfully bucks genre conventions at every turn with
its characters, which gives the film a spark of audacious spontaneity
that it needs.
director Nicolas Stoller really knows how to maneuver around this type of
material, having helmed such improvisational comedic gems like FORGETTING
SARAH MARSHALL and GET HIM
TO THE GREEK, both of which delivered large laughs while having a
wonderfully free-wheeling and loose approach; you never really knew where they were going, which is a tough act
to pull off when comedies are concerned.
NEIGHBORS’s initial setup seems routine and paint-by-numbers, but
the more it nimbly progresses the more unruly and unpredictable it
becomes. The impeccably well
matched Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play Mac and Kelly Radner, a couple in
their thirties that have partaking in two of the biggest
responsibilities of adulthood: parenthood and owning a home.
They are relatively content and truly love their new baby
daughter, but gone are the days of youthful freedom.
Going out is next to impossible for them, seeing as their
insecurity over leaving their infant with a sitter plagues them, and even
having fun on the home front becomes trickier.
An introductory scene showing the difficulties of having sex while
their child is in the vicinity starts the film’s hysterical - yet
painfully truthful - tone.
though their respective days are beset with stresses involving mounting
mortgage bills, baby monitors, and breast pumps, Mac and Kelly seem to
embrace it all in stride. Yet,
their cozy little suburban lifestyle is given the ultimate test by the
appearance of moving trucks and what appears to be a college fraternity
moving in next door. “Delta
Psi Beta” is led by the outwardly charming and kind, but inwardly
hedonistic, beer guzzling, and skirt chasing Teddy (Zac Efron, whom Mac
amusing describes as looking like he was “designed in a laboratory”) and
his second-in-command, Pete (Dave “Brother of James” Franco).
Initially, Teddy extends an olive branch to his initially worried
neighbors, especially after a relatively awkward first meeting that
involves Mac and Kelly talking gangster and offer the fraternity weed as a
house-warming gift. Alas, the
Radner's fears are very quickly verified when it becomes really, really
clear that Teddy wants to turn his new home and the entire block into party
central night after night. Thus
begins the war of the neighbors…and things get personal and ugly.
takes great pains – more so than most other frat comedies – to really
flesh out its characters on both sides of the fences, so to speak.
Stoller and his writers (Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien)
introduce and develop the daily grind and fatigue of the Radners coping
with their newfound duties as parents while trying to maintain some
semblance of their lifestyle before it.
The film captures the minutia of early parenthood quite well and
accurately. Compellingly, Mac
and Kelly don’t seem to want to let go of their more youthful pursuits
and even succumb to attending one of Teddy’s early parties early on in
the film, during which time they throw their inhibitions to the wind and
gorge on alcohol and drugs (while, of course, keeping their baby monitor
with them at all times). Of
course, Teddy uses photos taken of the inebriated Radners as blackmail
when they later call the cops on them for subsequent loud party nights.
character dynamics are interesting too.
Seth Rogen can play man-child characters in his sleep, but Mac is a
bit more well rounded than that, as he does what he can to maintain the façade
of a mature husband and father while, deep down, still yearning to party
like a college kid. I liked
the sly role reversal of Rose Byrne’s character, whom typically in other
comedies would be the
submissive, meek-minded and complaining wife persona, but instead is
perhaps more shockingly foul-mouth, ill-tempered, and antagonistic than her
hubby. Byrne is an actress
that has tiptoed between drama and comedy during her career (she’s
perhaps best known for her funny turn in BRIDESMAIDS), but here she more
than stakes a claim for herself as being as adept at leading the hilarious
charge with the best of them. A
scandalous and sidesplitting scene involving her getting Mac to milk her
(don’t ask) when her breast pump gets pooched is simultaneously intense
there is Teddy himself, a character that just about any other screenplay
would set up and define in the narrow confines of a one-note, frequently
shirtless, and maliciously vengeful Alpha male partier.
Well, he’s is, per se, all of those things, but the subtlety of
Efron’s performance is that there is a sincere attempt on his part to subvert our
expectations of these type of characters and the clichés usually
associated with them. Yes,
Teddy spends much of the film plotting his destruction of the Radners and
engages in wholly unethical behavior, but deep down he’s vulnerable,
uncertain, and has anxieties about his future post-college life.
Teddy gives the film a much needed dosage of unpredictability, and
the manner that Efron and the writers humanize this thug to semi-endearing levels is to
the film’s credit. You kind
of want to punch and hug this lug most of the time.
left out details about the actual tit-for-tat social war between the
neighbors, which would spoil most of the fun for you (granted, an
elaborate prank utilizing multiple airbags is a giddy showstopper).
NEIGHBORS gets a bit lazy in a few areas (like, for instance, how
just about no one else on the block voices a serious complaint against
Delta Psi Beta) and the film ends on an awkwardly assembled couple of
scenes. Yet, at brisk 96 minutes, NEIGHBORS is the perfect length for comedies such as these and
wholeheartedly delivers on its promises of hard R-rated shenanigans and
all out debauchery without overstaying its welcome as far too many recent
screen comedies have. Stoller
mixes the vulgar broadness of the comedy with the more sincere and
introspective character moments and “young generation versus old”
social commentary better than most, and the cast he assembles is razor
sharp and on point throughout. Just
when you thought that the frat comedy genre had nothing new to offer
filmgoers, along comes NEIGHBORS to raucously slap the status quo upside
Don’t get me wrong, though, the film still culminates with an epic brawl involving gigantic rubber dildos, so we still have that.