Superior cast, sound cameos, wickedly cute baby. Bromance, vulgarity and penis jokes aplenty.
Neighbors, directed by Nicholas Stoller, finds Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogan, Rose Byrne) settling into adult life as they begin raising their infant daughter in a quiet, college town neighborhood. That is, until a frat moves in next door. Hoping to head off trouble, Mac and Kelly ingratiate themselves with the fraternity by spending a raucous night partying in the house with the hope that the youngsters will find them cool enough to respect their transition into adulthood and their need for peace and quiet. After Mac and fraternity president Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) bond as bros during the night, Sanders now expects a level of trust, just like he would his "brothers." When, the following night, Mac and Kelly violate that trust by calling the police about the noise, Sanders declares war. Hijinks ensue and you can pretty much guess how the rest of the movie plays out.
With clear parallels to Animal House, Neighbors follows the Zac Efron led fraternity as it hopes to cement its partying ways in the annals of Delta Psi history. Unfortunately, Stoller’s Delta Psi doesn’t come close in comparison to the legendary Delta Tau Chi. Maybe its kids these days, or maybe it’s the lack of creativity in how most films portray said frat parties and why most people, except those in frats, hate frat parties. Zac Efron, though, is an unusually pleasant surprise. He shows a decent amount of versatility by being funny when he needs to be and serious when it warrants. While the audience is given more gratuitous shirtless moments than needed, it’s evident he’s come a long way since High School Musical.
Seth Rogan is his typical lovable self and Rose Byrne is the strong, yet charming wife. Many regards to a movie that portrays a couple who seem to like each other and like being married, as it appears Mac and Kelly do. Too often films find pleasure in portraying negative relationships and depicting couples as the nagging wife and the emotionally detached husband. Kudos to Stoller and company for not falling into this trap, Mac and Kelly are the couple we are, or want to be. Audiences will also connect with their struggle to become adults as they leave the single, carefree life behind. While Mac confronts a lifetime at a boring office job and Kelly faces the reality of being a stay at home mother, the frat parties become at once repulsive yet alluring because they represent a simpler time that is quickly slipping away from them.
Unfortunately, much like when Mac and Kelly try to impress the frat boys, Neighbors tries too hard to be cool. It tries too hard to make penis jokes funny and it tries too hard to convince you that penis jokes are funny; that if you don’t laugh at every silly manifestation or sexual innuendo that you’re actually the uncool one. This Is the End, Seth Rogan and team’s previous outing, was an infinitely better and more entertaining film. As in This Is the End, Neighbors likewise focuses on the intricacies of brohood. Unlike Neighbors though, This Is the End, was more honest in its willingness to make fun of itself as it took its absurdity to another level.
Neighbors is not a horrible film, but it falls short often. It’s clear that Stoller’s formula is at work here and most likely, he will continue to find an audience for it. This would be a surprisingly entertaining movie when, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, you come across it on cable. Not so much so, when you pay $10 or more to see it in a movie theater.