film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Neighbors 2014 * * * Stars

Director: Nicholas Stoller
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron

As of this moment, I have now seen three films by British born director, Nicholas Stoller. His Forgetting Sarah Marshall strained for laughs while his 2010 effort Get Him to the Greek, was hampered by the annoyance of one Russell Brand. Now with his current release entitled Neighbors (no relation to the 1981 John Belushi flick), he finally breaks through by unleashing an uproariously funny, overly crude, yet very well plotted frat comedy. Now granted, it does have a weak, feel good ending and a slow, almost guffaw-free beginning. All things considered though, I'd say that the laugh ratio throughout this vehicle's 90 plus minutes is pretty darn high. And if you're wondering whether or not I left the theater with a big fat smile on my face, well the answer is a profoundly stark yes!

Featuring a two part cameo by Friends alum Lisa Kudrow (where the heck has she been) and a scene in which a bunch of males make clay molds out of their genitalia (to raise money of course, how insightful), Neighbors follows the conflict between a married couple named the Radners (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as Mac and Kelly Radner) and chiseled up, professional college student Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron). You see, the married couple are full fledged adults. They have a kid, jobs, and a need for sleep. As for Sanders, well he's the president of a fraternity. He likes to throw loud, revolutionary frat parties and you guessed it, he's their next door neighbor. After a friendly meeting and a reasonable exchange of words, it all goes downhill when these two parties become constantly at odds with one another. Things get personal as they begin to pull pranks on each other (rather violent ones too), destroy each other's moral and eventually try to get one or the another kicked out of their respective domains. Something of note: mysteriously, it seems that only one house (the Radner house) is affected by the relentless noise and the late night rock n' roll lifestyle exhibited by these frat dudes. That notion is put to rest when a scene occurs in which the frat regulars and pledges reluctantly pay off other neighbors so that no one will complain in the future. The movie never really tells you what the other neighbors are being paid off with. I mean, the fraternity in question doesn't have much money anyway so it doesn't make much sense. Right?

Anyway, the casting consisting of actors/actresses who seem older than the parts they are playing, is pretty good but it's also sort of hit or miss. Seth Rogen is the ideal guy to be in a movie directed by Nicholas Stoller. He pretty much plays himself by once again doing the whole befuddled stoner bit (except now he plays a father with I guess, a five month old). Also, Rogen likes to improvise a lot and as evident by Stoller's previous work, improvisation is an absolute given. Then there is Rose Byrne and she is for the most part, appealing as Rogen's character's stay-at-home wife. We also get James Franco's little brother (Dave Franco) playing Pete Regazolli (the vice president of the fraternity, Delta Psi). His friendship with Efron's Sanders and their dialogue exchanges are a downright hoot (there's a scene where they elaborate on the adage of brotherhood coming before female companionship and it had me rolling in the aisle). They represent the best quote unquote, "bromance" that has ever been captured on film. Oh and did I mention Efron? Well he's just perfect playing the antagonist who has a zero GPA (it's mentioned halfway into Neighbors that he never goes to class) and doesn't want to venture into the real world after college is over. Zac appeared earlier this year in the cliched flick entitled That Awkward Moment. He bounces back here with a role that shows that he really can indeed act.

Now Neighbors, with its sometimes shocking bits of mild violence and amusing, well developed supporting characters (especially Franco as Efron's fraternity ally and Rogen's divorced friend played by Ike Barinholtz), could very well be the comedy of the year. Its only missteps involve the behavior of the parents by which the story is built around. First off, I didn't believe for a second, that Rose Byrne's Kelly Radner would ever marry or have a life (let alone a kid) with a dope like Seth Rogen's Mac. In the movie, we all find out that she is obviously from Australia so I'm thinking that when she came to the U.S., she settled for the first guy who hit on her (that's the only rational explanation I can think of). Also, I couldn't get over the fact that during a bunch of scenes where they go over to the Delta Psi house, this negligent couple ends up staying there for long periods of time (to get revenge of course). My question is what about their infant child who's all alone next door (you can't hear a baby monitor too well at a place where there's a lot of debauchery and loud noises)? Oh and what's up with Rogen's Mac going to an initial frat get together (to meet his new neighbors) only to end up in a situation where he eats shrooms and smokes large amounts of weed? Really? If the filmmakers are trying to depict him as a lousy parent, they're doing a heck of a good job.

Regardless, Neighbors succeeds by making the viewer laugh without being too outlandish, too gross, and ultimately too offensive. It's the perfect blend of R rated comedy (despite what you might have heard from other moviegoers) and fleshed out humiliation. And dare I say that I plan on seeing it again. I mean, who wouldn't want to borrow sugar from these "neighbors" just one more time.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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