Film Review: Neighbors

 

Neighbors is directed by Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the GreekForgetting Sarah Marshall) and stars Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, This Is The End) and Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids, Insidious) as Mac and Kelly, a couple who move into a new home to to kick off their next chapter: parenthood. With a new born baby and a quiet neighbourhood, settling down could not be any easier…that is, until a fraternity moves in next door. What starts off as a polite, respectful relationship between the two homes quickly turns sour and escalates into an all-out war.

We’ve come to expect Seth Rogen succeed with this type of raunchy, no-holds bar comedy. Unsurprisingly, he’s just as good in this film as he is in some of his previous efforts, but he also has a great group of co-stars who handle the material just as well, and in many moments, even better than he does. Joining Rogen and Byrne are Zac Efron (17 Again, That Awkward Moment), Dave Franco (Scrubs, 21 Jump Street), Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad), and Lisa Kudrow (FriendsEasy A).

Zac Efron has spent the better part of his career trying to escape the days of Disney past, filling up his time with roles in teen comedies and supporting features in drama flicks. Neighbors will certainly help his case, where he plays the ultimate bro, friend, mentor and yes, competitor, Teddy Sanders, the president of the fraternity. Teddy is not academically-inclined, but when it comes to the greek letters Delta Psi Beta, he will do anything to protect his frat family. Literally, anything, putting him on an equally defensive and destructive ground as Mac and Kelly. Zac Efron rises to the occasion in fine, skinny jean fashion, so much so that you don’t even care that there isn’t much to Teddy beyond his passion for brotherhood. He’s just really good at duking it out with Seth Rogen (or in one scene, bonding over Batman.)

But the real champion of this movie is Rose Byrne, who should focus on comedy gigs for the next few years. Where Bridesmaids was a prim and proper affair for Byrne, Neighbours is the rave that follows the tea party. Instead of being categorized as a sidekick or a timid wife, Byrne’s Kelly is even more scheming and outrageous than her husband and frat boy enemies. She orchestrates some of the greatest ploys in the film and is completely unapologetic for her actions, making her a fantastic partner for Mac. Byrne is incredibly convincing on her own, but she also has great comedic chemistry with Rogen. They both make the audience believe that neither Mac or Kelly are above getting down and dirty in an endless prank war, and really speaking, you never want them to back down. They are not only an ideal alliance, but they are also an ideal nemesis that audience members would either like to be, or like to face off against.

The pace of the joke delivery is successful because of the supporting cast. Franco is a strong second-in-command to Efron. If you’ve seen any of his work with FunnyOrDie.com, then you know that Franco is more than capable of delivering this kind of humor, and is given quite a few memorable moments where he shines. Going forward, it will be great to see Franco take on a leading role in a similar kind of film. It is disappointing that Stoller doesn’t use Christopher Mintz-Plasse all that much, but the few times he did made for great scenes with Ike Barinholtz. Even Kudrow managed to keep the momentum going in some of the filler scenes as the Dean at Pete and Teddy’s school.

One of the sore points of the film is that it lacks any sort of real character or plot development. Any time writers Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien try to throw some sort of emotional curveball into the story, the characters bounce back within minutes, forgive and forget, and move on to the next battle plan. There is never really much of an attempt to give any depth to these characters, save for Dave Franco’s Pete, the vice-president of Delta Psi Beta, and even his characterization as a kid with a future is barely used to advance the story. But with 90 minutes of non-stop crude jokes and ridiculously hilarious comebacks, it’s really easy to forget about those kinds of elements, even if it’s to the point where you don’t remember why these neighbours started fighting in the first place by the end of the movie.

Despite the lack of emotional center, Neighbors is a fantastic comedic offering and a great way to kick off the summer movie season. If you enjoyed the likes of Superbad and Old School, then you’re going to really have fun with this film. Neighbors will release in North America on May 9th, 2014.

I attended a promotional screening of Neighbors which was held by Universal Pictures Canada.

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