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Universal // R // May 9, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
There are many tired concepts that seem to keep rising to the surface in recent comedies. Not only do we know each beat of the picture, but many of these filmmakers fail to deliver on the high laugh-per-minute ratio that we're all craving. Nicholas Stoller's Neighbors takes one of these story concepts and turns it into something different. While many of the beats are still the same, Stoller and his team succeed in keeping us both invested and undeniably entertained. While it didn't have me laughing nearly as much as Bridesmaids did back in 2011, it manages to deliver on other elements that many comedies fail to achieve.
Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) are a happily married couple with a newborn baby. While they love their child, Mac and Kelly miss the more exciting parts of their lives. Unless they're able to score a babysitter, they aren't able to go out with friends. When the house next to them is up for sale, a fraternity moves next-door. After enduring the loud music and partying for quite some time, they unintentionally start a rivalry with the fraternity president, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron).
Writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien begin by creating comedic sequences about a real life problem for many relatively new parents. Mac and Kelly Radner aren't ready to give up their crazy days, but realize that they have to do what is best for their newborn baby. Drained of energy, it becomes difficult for them to go out on the nights that they're free to do so. Cohen and O'Brien play on these notes several times throughout the film's duration. There are quite a few gags on this, which ultimately become stronger due to the underlying material. The message is that life changes when one takes on the responsibility of being a parent. This is the first of several real-life messages that underly the story, which work quite well. They all relate to Mac, Kelly, Teddy, and his best friend, Pete (Dave Franco) rather well. This is a clear issue for many comedies, but Cohen and O'Brien have been able to handle this with ease.
The comedy itself is sure to have nearly everybody in the cinema laughing. While there are some jokes about ordinary functions of our society, the majority of the humor comes from the insane partying and the growing rivalry between the two neighbors. Mac and Kelly make the decision on a couple of occasions to join the fraternity's crazy parties. Chaos ensues, as they start drinking and taking drugs. There are a couple specific scenes during the parties that are quite hilarious. However, most of these sequences don't compare to the humor displayed throughout the duration of the rivalry. It quickly escalates, as the gags become more over-the-top. There's something absolutely hilarious about watching other people get humiliated, and the filmmakers understand that. Fortunately, most of the gags here haven't been spoiled by the commercials, as that is usually the case for most modern comedies. Most of Neighbors is clearly scripted, but there are some scenes that imply that they went with improv. Some of them start off as being funny, but soon become stale. They run with these jokes for far too long, leaving us just wanting to move on to the next scene.
One of the most crucial elements to be found in Neighbors is the pacing. The running time flies by, as there truly is a lot to enjoy here. Once the film hits the third act, audiences are introduced to some story elements that create actual changes in the characters, yet it never feels like a cheap after-school special. It feels quite natural, as all of the characters need to learn to grow up and understand their responsibilities. We actually come to truly want to see the characters succeed in becoming true adults. All of this occurs underneath the surface of a vulgar comedy that wants to see you both laughing and truly caring about what's going on. This is quite ambitious for a modern-day comedy, but Neighbors succeeds.
Not only does this comedy have a fairly well-written screenplay, but it has the cast to truly make it shine. Seth Rogen delivers in the role of Mac Radner. While this is exactly the performance audiences expect from him, he makes sure that viewers are laughing throughout. Rose Byrne is an uproar in the role of Kelly Radner. It's quite refreshing to see a woman take such a strong role in a raunchy comedy that is predominantly about men. She's absolutely hilarious here, and I can't wait to see what she does next. When it comes to Zac Efron, I'm not a fan. However, he works in the role of Teddy Sanders. He delivers both the laughs, as well as the genuine message of brotherhood. Dave Franco is great as his wingman, Pete. When this cast operates together, it truly makes for a hilarious display.
Neighbors brings heavy laughs in the form of Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne. There are few other Hollywood pairs that are able to deliver the comedy in such a fun fashion. However, this film isn't only about the laughs, as there are serious themes revolving around growing up and taking responsibility. Mac Radner and fraternity president Teddy Sanders have a lot more in common than one would imagine. They are connected by their immaturity, as they both clearly have a fear of facing responsibility and getting older. Neighbors is uproariously funny and enjoyable. Highly recommended!