Neighbors

Neighbors photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgMac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) are a young couple with a baby who’ve recently moved to the suburbs. When the Delta Psi Beta fraternity moves in next door to theirs, mayhem ensues. Their differing values give birth to rising tensions in the neighborhood. You’d think the saga would be about the rude, obnoxious frat boys pitted against the uptight intolerant thirty-somethings, but you’d be wrong. That is merely the beginning of where this culture clash comedy deviates from conventions.

The principals do not fit neatly within the traditional stereotypes of this genre. Yes the greeks are obsessed with partying at all hours of the night. They even have a shrine to great blowouts over the years on their wall. Yet these adolescents are more compassionate than others of their ilk. The script takes the time to develop distinct personalities among the frat guys. While Teddy (Zac Efron) is an athletic party boy with swagger, Pete (Dave Franco), also a partier, is academically inclined. Teddy and his right-hand dude Pete are sympathetic when dealing with harassment at the hands of the Radners. The adults, Mac and Kelly are overly concerned with trying to appear hip and cool while they assert their need to have peace and quiet at a reasonable hour. Seth Rogen has always hilariously embodied that intellectually stunted adult. Rose Byrne is his equal.

The performances are good across the board. There’s a collection of bros in the fraternity that have speaking lines but Zac Efron and Dave Franco are the ones that get the main focus. They put in memorable work and straddle the line between charismatic and contemptible. They’re more than the arrogant stock characters I expected them to be. Seth Rogen, and Rose Byrne are engaging as the mellowing couple that’s starting to grow up. On the surface Mac and Kelly kind of represent the archetypes made famous on the TV show The King of Queens. The clumsy schlub with a inexplicably hot wife that constantly needles him when he messes up. The self-aware script even has the characters themselves bring up the model simply to subvert it. And let’s not forget their baby! Baby Stella is played by twins Zoey and Elise Vargas.  I only looked this up because I was convinced that she was really a 30-year-old actress who just happened to look like a baby. Her expressions are priceless. What a little scene stealer! In truth Neighbors doesn’t re-invent the wheel. I mean their idea of innovation to make the wife as loud and dumb as her husband. However that is precisely what raises the bar. It overturns expectations.

Neighbors displays a surprisingly amount of empathy for both sides. That’s admirable I suppose. It’s funniest though when the ridiculous pranks push the envelope of what would be considered acceptable hijinks. The comedy excels when it’s a back and forth game of one-upmanship. The biggest laughs come when things develop into all out war. Please do note, it’s the aging Radners that get nastier. By the end, I was actually siding with the fraternity who act more reasonably, although I appreciated the Radners’ willingness to go for broke. The Radner’s earn more laughs. After she sets her evil plan in motion, Rose Byrne’s self assured slow-motion strut at the frat party is everything. This comedy ultimately gets by on raucous vibes. In terms of story, though, this is pretty basic stuff. The dramatic beats of the simplistic tale won’t resonate hours after you’ve seen it. It’s fitfully entertaining for the moment. In many ways, that makes it the perfect summer comedy. It‘s equal parts funny, flashy and fleeting.

05-08-14

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31 Responses to “Neighbors”

  1. Nice review. Saw this last night and I agree with your rating. The jokes were pretty hit or miss at times but I laughed enough to enjoy the movie. Rogen and Byrne have very good chemistry with each other, I’d like to see them do another picture.

    • Rose Byrne has been a favorite of mine since Bridesmaids although I first noticed her in Wicker Park. She does mostly dramas, but I like her even more in comedic roles.

  2. We have an accord Mark (though it did enough to get a 4 from me). Nice review.

  3. Great review! Gonna check that one out!

  4. I didn’t love this as much as others. But it is still overall enjoyable and a nice comedy to start off the blockbuster season. Still recommended.

  5. Laughed long, hard, and pretty consistent throughout this movie. But there’s also a heart at the center of this that really felt genuine to me, and wasn’t just tacked-on, like so many comedies nowadays are guilty of doing. Good review Mark.

    • I always find it a bit incongruous when a really vulgar comedy ends with a touching finale to engage the emotions. This did it with a bit more flair than many I suppose.

  6. Very nice concluding lines Mark, I agree this is a very “fitfully entertaining for the moment” smash hit; I honestly was rolling at some parts. But as far as a story goes, it’s been done a million times. But the fact that I was completely enjoying myself was a pretty big victory, I was really not liking the trailers. 🙂

    • I was entertained so I enjoyed myself. I could tell my audience, however, loved it more. The theater was packed and people laughed loud and at anything even remotely humorous.

  7. Fantastic write-up, Mark. This is one of my most anticipated of 2014, for some odd reason.

  8. sounds fun! i definitely want to check this out

  9. martin250 Says:

    “..it’s the aging Radners that get nastier..” . this is unexpected.. from watching the movie trailer, I thought they would be the victims through most of the ordeal. very interesting. will definitely see this because of the stars but its also nice to read that it is unconventional.

  10. I thought this was very funny. I laughed quite a bit. I agree with everyone, Rose Byrne was very good. She had some very memorable scenes. And that baby…..she was such a cutie. Stole every scene. 3 1/2 stars.

    • Rose Byrne plays Jamie Foxx’s personal assistant in the upcoming heavily hyped Annie. As great as she is, that movie looks like it will test the audience’s patience.

  11. I saw it, this movie is a worth of watch……

  12. Looking forward to this, I’ve just been so busy lately I haven’t had a chance to go to the cinema. Although I’m going this week to check out Godzilla!

    Nice review! Glad you liked it.

    • Me too! Seeing Godzilla on Thursday. On vacation in Southern California and going to the historic Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Making a rare exception and seeing it in IMAX 3D.

  13. garylee828 Says:

    I saw this today when I went to see Godzilla. I cracked up at the part where Seth & Zac were fighting in the bedroom and Seth bounced off the trampoline to drop an elbow and collided into the ceiling fan. lol. I don’t know why I thought it was so hilarious, but I cracked up.

    PS: I love “King of Queens”. One of my all-time favorite comedy shows. I have all the DVD’s and I watch the reruns on TV Land for hours. lol. Did you like it?

  14. I think I’d describe this comedy as conventionally unconventional. It knows when to stick with genre rules and to subvert them. I agree that Byrne feels like an appropriate match for Rogen and I enjoy that they’re both the Kevin James as the put it in the film. I also dug how sympathetic the movie made both sides, and like you I found myself siding more with the frat toward the end once the Radnors took things too far. Like you said though, this is kind if breezy summer fare that’s fun but doesn’t stick with you for long afterward.

    • Conventionally unconventional is right on the money. It’s rather predictable in its craziness. I liked it but as I suggested in my review, it hasn’t stuck with me.

  15. You know already that I really dislike this movie. Probably because I think Teddy, Kelly and Mac are stock characters, with little depth to differentiate them from other characters of their ilk.

    I do agree that the actors are good. And that the film itself doesn’t take sides.

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