“Neighbors” – or more aptly ‘get off my lawn: the movie’ – is suburbia’s worst nightmare: a quiet young family versus the horde of an unruly, perverse and destructive frat house. Equal parts heart and raunch, this latest Seth Rogen gem is all laughs.
New suburbanite parents Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) have a rude awakening when a fraternity moves in to the large Victorian house next door. Conflicted with the fear of appearing like noise-complaining crotchety old people compared to the young partiers, while also attempting to maintain a little of their youthful sprite themselves, Mac and Kelly befriend frat president Teddy (Zac Efron) and vice president Pete (Dave Franco) with the hope of having some control over their neighbors. At first, Mac and Kelly succumb to the intoxicating life of the party but when the partying becomes relentless night after night, Mac calls the cops on Teddy and thus is born an epic rivalry to force one another off the street. Strategies range from the perverse to clever to downright mean.
“Neighbors” is a perfect concoction of stoner comedy, slapstick and situational humor. Director Nicholas Stoller (“The Five-Year Engagement”) is no stranger to mixing raunch with tenderness and he covers all the bases here: frat house perversions, hilarious them-versus-us antics and the sheer awkwardness of finding your footing as a new parent. While the ridiculous – and sometimes jaw-dropping revenge antics – provide the belly laughs, the film gets strong support by tapping in to a conflict many young adults experience: is your life over when you have a child? Rogen and Byrne are a delight as they battle both parenting and Zac Efron. By adding the tender parenting plot line - something probably more relatable than having a frat house next door – “Neighbors” becomes a strong modern comedy.
But be warned: if raunchy comedy just isn’t your choice of party drink, sitting this film out might save you some stress. “Neighbors” takes the frat house genre to a new level with over-the-top perversions. By today’s standards, the G-rated old days of “Animal House” are long gone — though there are some funny nods to traditional frat house antics, like fictitiously explaining the origins of the toga party and beer pong.
Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen are a perfect team as the frustrated parents. Together they relay their lines with the natural flair of a seasoned improv troupe. Rogen generally sticks to his usual routine while Byrne gives the rest of the cast a run for their money.
Compared to Rogen and Byrne, Zac Efron plays it straight, using his half-naked body to its fullest extent to mask that he isn’t quite as strong a comedic actor as the rest of the cast. While everyone else seems to be doing improv, Efron comes across as sticking strictly to the script. However, Teddy’s overly macho arrogance and naiveté adds some charm to an otherwise overwrought stereotype.
Rounding out the cast is Christopher Mintz-Plasse and “The Mindy Project’s” Ike Barinholtz, who is a rising comedic character actor, here siding with Rogen and Byrne against the tyrannical frat house. Barinholtz’s comedic style fits perfectly in Seth Rogen’s cinematic circus. Even Dave Franco (James Franco’s brother) does a fine comedic job, even though his Pete is often the film’s voice of reason. Franco is quickly proving to be more versatile — and especially more emotive — than his brother.
Universal Pictures. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 1 hour and 36 minutes.