Director Nicholas Stoller‘s latest R-rated comedy, Neighbors, is an interesting change of pace for star Seth Rogen and yet another shining example of how to pump as much Zac Efron in front of the ladies as possible. It’s also a decent comedy that’s nearly ruined by the marketing team, thanks to the countless clips and trailers that give away the best gags. Still, Neighbors gets by on its simple plot and dynamic cast of talent, making for a comedy that will occasionally make your stomach burst, but mostly just make you chuckle at the pure stupidity on display.
Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) Radner are a younger couple with a newborn looking to settle down. Both are still phasing out their college party years in exchange for many sleepless nights attending to their child. They’re okay with that for the most part, occasionally trying to sneak out for a fun party with friends, but usually ending up on the kitchen floor sleeping, after attempting to have a quick sexual encounter. This is their life and they seem to be slowly understanding that and getting comfortable with that, until a college frat moves in next door, led by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco).
Now, Mac and Kelly decide to be the “cool” adults, hoping to make a pact with the frat in exchange for a little peace and quiet. Their first approach is to blend in and go with the flow, by attending a few parties and reliving some of their glory days, but then things turn sour and they are forced to go to war with the frat for neighborhood peace.
The frat does whatever they can to destroy Mac and Kelly, while they attempt to get the frat kicked out and banned.
Director Nicholas Stoller‘s latest comedy is a big step away from his usual brand of humor, which was last displayed in The Five-Year Engagement and Get Him to the Greek. Stoller usually has a very unique sense of humor, which is still on display in Neighbors, but just made a bit broader. This one will definitely appeal to most, with humor that hits both the younger and older generations. Stoller is wise enough to keep the comedy tight on Seth Rogen, while occasionally allowing Efron and Franco to add their own sense of humor when called for.
The biggest hurdle this film gets over is playing Rogen against type, allowing him to be the sane family man, while still letting him let loose and give us what we’re used to. Rogen is a talented man, both in front of and behind the camera and it shows very much in this one, because he’s not resorting to the normal stoner stereotypes constantly. Sure, he throws in a few gags, but Rogen’s character really does grow in this film, even if the ending feels slightly forced in terms of what is learned throughout the entire film.
Mac and Kelly’s characters are a little more detailed than one might expect, because both characters are going through their own early/mid-life crisis as they come to terms with the idea that they are now the uncool parents telling the kids next door to turn down the music versus being the ones that use to crank up the music to the highest notch. This hitch isn’t blown out of proportion and mostly realized at the beginning of the film, but it’s still great watching both characters kick back and ease up a bit.
Stoller captures this with a little too much raunchy humor that sometimes feels like it’s crossing the line. I’m all for an R-rated comedy with lots of crude humor, but this has sex scenes that go on a little too long and are barely funny by the time the film switches gears.
And that’s one of Neighbors‘ biggest problems. It has a really hard time shifting from one scene to the next, while maintaining a feeling of coherency. Most of the film’s first half is filled with loosely connected gags that pop up for a second, earn a quick laugh and then go away. Nothing feels stringed together, meaning that the jokes don’t hit nearly as hard as they should and are quickly forgotten. It definitely feels like Stoller let his cast do whatever they pleased at times or allowed his writers to cram as much into a scene as possible, without cutting out some of the not so great bits.
This is where the film’s pacing sometimes becomes a problem, because jokes aren’t used to move the plot forward, but instead to earn a very quick laugh at the expense of slowing down the film’s momentum. Nicholas Stoller‘s comedies usually don’t rely on quickness, but Seth Rogen‘s do and Neighbors is a weird blend of both of their styles, sometimes feeling like a film that wants to explore young mens troubled and dumb obsession with brotherhood and fraternities and just how pointless some of them are, while also kind of wanting to touch up on how important it is to just have fun and be with the people that make you have the most fun possible. It’s a neat little back-and-forth that’s poorly explored and mostly exchanged for more dick humor or pointless shots of Zac Efron without his shirt (breathe ladies).
Above anything, Neighbors is a great time-waster for those looking to kick off the summer season with an R-rated comedy. Both Seth Rogen and Nicholas Stoller have definitely done much better, which isn’t to say that Neighbors is a bad film, but just one of those in between ones. Zac Efron does shine as the leader of the frat, exposing a character full of dumbness and insanity and yet a weird heart of gold, while Dave Franco goes in and out of being a nerdy Peter Parker type and a stereotypical douchebag frat boy #2. It’s confusing yes, but sometimes funny.
Skip Neighbors if you’re pinching the pennies, because a rental will do just fine for most. Only the die-hard Seth Rogen fans will want to trip out to the theater to this one and even then I’d suggest a matinee.
Neighbors – 7/10