In director Nicholas Stoller’s comedy Neighbors, a couple with a newborn baby find themselves sparring with a rowdy fraternity that has moved in next door. Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) Radner, like all new parents, are struggling to be responsible parents while still clinging to the notion of being young and hip. Upon the arrival of the Delta Psi fraternity, led by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), Mac and Kelly go out of their way to ensure they are not perceived as the uncool neighbors. They even party with the frat boys just to show how cool they really are. Yet, as the partying at the frat house escalates, Mac and Kelly break their promise to Teddy by calling the cops to complain about the noise. This ignites a war of one-upmanship that seemingly knows no bounds.
On the surface the film appears to be your typical slob versus adult style comedy. Many of the laughs in Neighbors’s involve outlandish pranks which are often painful, and at times scary, for the victim. However, it becomes apparent that beneath its madcap exterior is something far more engaging. Stoller and his screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien create a film that examines many of the fears of adulthood. This dread of growing up and being responsible is not only found in Mac and Kelly, but in Teddy as well.
Teddy only knows how to party and aims to throw the ultimate bash in his final months as a college student. Yet, the question of what he will do after college hovers over him. This point in emphasized even further through his best friend Pete, who ultimately becomes the film’s conscience of sorts. The film’s screenplay is rewarding in the way it shows how the fear of responsibility has consumed both Teddy and Mac respectively. Like Teddy, Mac still wants to have fun, however being a father to his baby girl forces him to re-evaluate his actions.
Stoller’s direction may seem simple, but it does have a lot of amazing visual motifs in the fraternity party scenes as some of it is inspired by Gaspar Noe’s 2009 film Enter the Void. The visual flare and the standout supporting performances from Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Carla Gallo, Ike Barinholtz, and Lisa Kudrow in a wonderful performance as the college dean, help to elevate Neighbors above others in its genre. However, what truly makes the film soar is the trio of Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, and Zac Efron. They consistently bring the big laughs in the film.
Rogen is known for being one of the finest comedic actors working today and he displays his acting skills here again. He brings both humor and substance to his performance in the film. Rose Byrne is absolutely hilarious, proving that she is more than just the straight woman to Rogen’s buffoon. As for Zac Efron, he is very impressive in the film. He not only pokes fun at his heartthrob images, but also shows that he can handle this brand of comedy. Efron is not above embracing his silly side as demonstrated in an amusing conversation between Teddy and Mac regarding who was the better Batman.
Neighbors is a fantastic comedy that offers so much more than you would initially expect. It has big laughs while still managing to keep the themes of adulthood and wanting to maintain that sense of youth at the forefront. Nicholas Stoller crafts a film that is easily his most enjoyable work since Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Neighbors proves that Stoller is a filmmaker who knows how to create comedies with brains.
© thevoid99 2014