Welcome to the neighborhood
With its heaven-sent combination of actors and director, Neighbors could have been better. The film moved in to Nicholas Stolling’s impressive community of comedies (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, and The Five-Year Engagement), but that’s like comparing a modest abode to an opulent mansion. Neighbors is never as goofy or sentimental as it should have been. Still, it vaguely hits on both, and what more can you ask from a movie about a frat house?
Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are optimistic about their new house and neighborhood in which they plan to raise their new daughter, even if that means no longer going to spontaneous raves with their friends. Maybe they can start going to frat parties instead, because the house next to them is quickly claimed Delta territory. Frat leaders Teddy and Pete (Zac Efron and Dave Franco in the most significant pairing of actors in film history) promise to keep their partying down for the Radners as long as they leave the police out of it. Both promises are quickly broken, and soon it’s war between the neighbors.
Though the pranks are bawdy and exactly what you’d expect from a movie starring Rogen (perhaps most hilarious is a series of airbags stolen from Kelly’s car and placed strategically around Mac’s living and working areas, ready to blow like a comedic minefield), the movie is best taken as a virtual coming-of-age of two different, unconventional age groups. Even though Mac and Kelly are the actually-together couple (who experience a just-too-big dose of marriage drama near the end of the film), it’s Teddy and Pete’s bromance that I truly rooted for. Writers Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien couldn’t have spent all their time in film school partying.
If Zac Efron is only respected for his looks and not his acting chops, that’s wrong. If Dave Franco is only known for being the younger brother to James Franco, that’s even more wrong. These two are naturally hilarious, and being together only makes them better (not to mention, their faces are probably accountable for 60% of the tickets sold). Their youth is complimented by Rogen and Byrne’s weathered age (or so the script playfully implies). The script plays with the older couple’s primal yearning to be young and partying wild again, and Teddy’s acute awareness that his youth will not last forever, and soon his belly will match that of Rogen’s, as pudgy as it is proudly displayed throughout he film.
Much like Teddy and Pete’s ragers, though, the audience won’t be able to remember most of the movie shortly after it happened. Neighbors is funny and charming when it needs to be, but never as much as it should have been. Maybe it should have studied just a little more.