Note: The movie shown at SXSW is considered a work in progress that is likely to change slightly before the films release on May 9. We will have an updated review of the finished movie closer to release.
Seth Rogen as Mac Radner
Rose Byrne as Kelly Radner
Zac Efron as Teddy Sanders
Dave Franco as Pete
Ike Barinholtz as Jimmy
Carla Gallo as Paula
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Scoonie
Jerrod Carmichael as Garf
Lisa Kudrow as Carol Gladstone
Chasty Ballesteros as Alecia
Elise and Zoey Vargas as Stella
Ali Cobrin as Whitney
Halston Sage as Brooke
Jason Mantzoukas as Dr. Theodorakis
Craig Roberts as Assjuice
Hannibal Buress as Officer Watkins
Olia Voronkova as Sorority Girl
Jesse Heiman as Babysitter
Brian Huskey as Bill Wazowkowski
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Recent parents Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) are trying to enjoy their suburban life without giving up the wildness of their youth before settling down. When a frat house moves in next door, how cool they can be is put to the test by the house’s president Teddy (Zac Efron) and his vice-president Pete (Dave Franco). Loud parties that go late into the night drive the couple to call the police, which in turn leads to a feud with the frat house that grows progressively worse as Mac and Kelly try to find sneaky ways of getting the frat boys kicked out of their house.
The fourth comedy from director Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) is somewhat of a departure for him, maybe because he didn’t write the screenplay, but also because it’s his first collaboration with the other side of the Judd Apatow camp, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who tend to go for raunchier and let’s admit it, more juvenile, laughs than Stoller’s relationship humor.
“Neighbors” creates an interesting amalgam of their different styles, something that’s immediately apparent from what may possibly be one of the funniest opening sequences we’ve seen in years. It effectively lets the viewer know how irresponsible Seth Rogen’s Mac and his wife Kelly (Rose Byrne) are as new parents before we’re quickly thrown into what is a fairly simple turf war premise involving the frat house next door.
Seth Rogen doesn’t seem to be breaking any new ground with his character in “Neighbors” although it seems very much like a transitional movie for him, one where he can go from being one of the pot-smoking fratboys to playing older parental roles without losing his coolness. This creates an interesting mix of humor that would appeal both to the college crowd and young parents, even if Zac Efron doesn’t seem like a good match as his foil, which is probably why the movie doesn’t work as well as it might have, because whenever Mac and Teddie start buddying up, it feels somewhat contrived and not particularly credible.
Stoller’s assembled an impressive cast around them that helps with some of the heavy lifting with Rose Byrne being particularly revelatory in her ability to keep up with Rogen in terms of their scenes throwing gags out to each other. In other words, she’s very funny in her own right rather than being the typical comedy wife who just reacts to her husband’s shenanigans. In fact, Rogen and Byrne are so enjoyable to watch when it’s just the two of them on screen, the movie loses something whenever it cuts over to Efron and the frat house, maybe because they’re following in some large-sized footprints with the likes of “Animal House” and “Old School” coming before them. Dave Franco has some of the funnier lines and bits in these scenes, but others in the frathouse are given personalities and their own moments as well.
Despite the amount of suspension of disbelief necessary to make the comedy premise work, “Neighbors” is still a very funny movie, the humor definitely pushing the envelope of good taste more than a few times. Yet, whenever it delves into the lowest brow gross-out physical humor–rather than its unending string of gags about penises and smoking pot–it definitely starts to falter. There’s an attempt to create something meaningful with heart at least in terms of Mac and Rose dealing with becoming responsible parents, but that’s frequently thrown out the window whenever they try to come down to the level of the frat boys.
The last third of the movie is where things start to go off the rails and get predictable as the war between neighbors escalates, even if there are still enough great “Oh sh*t!” moments most won’t see coming to keep it entertaining. The real problem arises when the filmmakers try to figure out how to end the movie and we’re given three or four epilogues when maybe one or two would have sufficed. There is a case to be made in saying a movie may be too funny for its own good and “Neighbors” may fall into that category. The movie itself isn’t long per se, coming in at under an hour and forty minutes, but some jokes and scenes are stretched far too long and that especially seems true with the ending.
The Bottom Line:
Hilariously funny and raunchy from beginning to end–even if it sometimes goes for the easiest of laughs–“Neighbors” succeeds at being more than your typical frat house movie, even if it’s a strange mix of humor that might lose some along the way.