Here is the thing about "Neighbors," a hard-R hybrid of "Animal House" and a sort-of sequel to "Knocked Up" in which a Gen X couple with an infant daughter and a hefty mortgage declares war on the rowdy Gen Y frat boys who move in next door: You will laugh. Maybe not nearly as much as during "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" or "Superbad" but there is a steady stream of inducements to at least chuckle with regularity. Most of these lewd dollops of humor rely on what we will refer to (as a matter of decorum) as “Richard” jokes, ranging from artisanal dildos to the miracle of an instant erection.
You may even applaud, as my audience did, when Rose Byrne—as mother and wife Kelly, who desperately needs a night out and is shockingly adept at
cursing—proves her comedic prowess in "Bridesmaids" was no fluke. With almost scary zeal, she summons her fulsome wiles to seduce both a girl and a guy into hooking up after lubricating their libidos with several rounds of shots.
You will also groan at some of the more inappropriate moments, such as
the unfortunate use of the “N” word as well as an ill-advised joke about
baby HIV. Also annoying is the lack of any fully developed women beyond
Byrne and Lisa Kudrow as a fed-up college dean. The female students
fluttering by all seem to dress as if they were in a Victoria’s Secret
fashion show. And note to the two male screenwriters, Andrew J. Cohen
and Brendan O’Brien: Breast-feeding is not as amusing as you think it
for the plot, it’s a grass-is-always-greener scenario—but with plenty
of weed, too. The twist is, both sides want what the other one has. For
cubicle drone Mac (Seth Rogen), it’s a chance to revisit his
responsibility-free past. For party major Teddy (Zac Efron), it’s a
possible future beyond hot-tub bacchanals and hazing underclassmen.
They are less foils and more fun-house reflections of one another, and
that is rather deep for this kind of id-driven tomfoolery.
like Nicholas Stoller’s previous directorial efforts, "Forgetting Sarah
Marshall" and "Get Him to the Greek," "Neighbors" is messily pasted together
with improvised bits and plot threads that dangle. I miss the days when
comedy scripts were lovingly honed, with dialogue that sang not
stuttered. But at least Stoller manages to avoid many of the clichés of
the raunchy bromance genre. Still, it makes no sense that no one else on
the block complains that the Greeks blare music and set off fireworks
at all hours.
what is most surprising about this latest effort from graduates of the
Judd Apatow Clown Academy for Emotionally Stunted Males is that Efron
gives his most mature and nuanced post-"High School Musical" performance
yet as the alpha stud of Delta Psi. Not that his character is one
note. Instead, like a latter-day Eddie Haskell but with killer abs, he
easily slips from sincere and reassuring to sneaky and underhanded when
counter-attacks are called for. You actually feel his regret when it
finally dawns on him that maybe he should have gone to class once in a
Rogen—a producer along with his usual cohort, Evan Goldberg—has
devolved back into his standard pothead schlub routine after taking a
stretch with more dramatic work in "Take This Waltz" and "50/50" as well as
playing straight man to Barbra Streisand in "The Guilt Trip." The problem
is "Neighbors" will likely gross more at the box office than all those
three films combined. Who would have predicted that Jonah Hill—the
Boo-Boo to Rogen’s Yogi Bear—would be the one to end up with two Oscar
sub-strata of fresh faces provides able support, including Dave Franco
(younger brother of James) as Pete, Teddy’s sharper second-in-command;
Craig Roberts ("Submarine") as a frat recruit known as Assjuice; and
standup comic Hannibal Buress as a laid back police officer. And how long
can Christopher Mintz-Plasse get away with a resume full of variations
on his McLovin character?
no one holds the screen like Mac and Kelly’s big-eyed darling of a
daughter, played by twins Elise and Zoey Vargas. Universal, the studio
behind "Neighbors," may want to consider putting her outtakes online
judging by the chorus of “awws” heard whenever she shows up.
coda before the end credits that finds Mac and Teddy connecting
shirtlessly outside an Abercrombie & Fitch provides welcome closure.
Be forewarned, however: If this movie becomes popular, car airbags are
destined to become the new whoopee cushions.