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Neighbors

Even though I had this movie on my “top 10 movies to watch for the summer” list, I don’t think I was actually expecting it to be as good as it was. This Rated-R comedy is about 1 1/2 hours of well paced comedy that definitely holds up to the positive reviews it received before its release. This movie is also smarter than I expected. There are several times during the movie when it pokes fun at itself, which helps show some self awareness. It knows exactly what it is and will keep you entertained throughout.

Recap

Neighbors is about Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) a couple in their late 20’s or early 30’s that’s just had a baby and bought a house. The couple is adjusting to the transition from going out and partying to being parents. As they’re settling in to their new lives, they find out that their new next door neighbors are the Delta Psi Beta fraternity. “Delta Psi” is led by their President, Teddy (Zac Efron), and Vice President, Pete (Dave Franco). The Fraternity’s only goal is to throw the most epic parties ever. Obviously, this isn’t a great situation for a family with a baby but, the Radners try to “be cool” and make peace with the frat boys, they even party with them. However, the partying quickly becomes disruptive and they call the police which leads to a quickly  escalating conflict with their former frat friends.

The rest of the movie is about the family and the frat trying to make life miserable for each other. Ultimately, the Radner’s figure out that they can get rid of the frat if they can force them to get three strikes from the university, which will lead to them being disbanded. Throughout the conflict, both sides realize that they are taking things to far and that the other side represents something about themselves that they need to confront. However, that doesn’t stop them from moving forward and everything culminates with one big party and an explosive confrontation.

Commentary

This movie is really funny, probably the funniest thing I’ve seen this year.  The entire movie is really smart about it’s delivery. At it’s core, this is still a movie that’s made for a high-school to college audience and has plenty of dick jokes, sight gags, and foul language. The same thing that you would expect if you’ve seen a sampling of Seth Rogen’s (or Judd Apatow’s) films.  However, this movie is very aware of what it is and doesn’t shy away from it. Instead they find ways to improve on the format and interject some thoughtfulness into it without making it feel contrived or forced.

A lot of the big gags in the movie are standard: fallout from drug use (mushrooms and weed), dick jokes (the fraternity has a home-made dildo fundraiser) and sexual humor (Byrne is “milked” at one point in the movie). There’s also just a lot of Efron walking around with no shirt on and referencing just how attractive he is. What makes the film really fly is the little moments in between or during the big gags. Probably 50% or more of the dialogue in the movie sounds like the actors are just riffing. There’s so many great little comments or references during those riffs and they come from the entire cast.

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There’s a lot of guest stars and featured players in this movie that you don’t see during the previews. Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Lisa Kudrow play significant roles in the film and there’s also an early flashback that features members of the Lonely Island, the main cast of Office Space Workaholics and comedic actor Jake Johnson, from New Girl (and several films). Even the effect of seeing these people on screen is used well as the audience is given enough time to go “Hey that’s [insert name here]” while something else is going on. I also really liked the parts with Kudrow as the dean. She sounds like she’s channeling a lot of her “Web Therapist” persona and it works in the situation. She  is also the recipient of one of my favorite lines which was, “Well I graduated from here, that’s why I’m dumb”.

While those parts are great, the chemistry, dialogue and interaction between the 4 main characters (Rogen, Byrne, Efron and Franco) is outstanding. They’re all equally funny, which is good because it doesn’t force Rogen to be the funniest thing on the screen all the time. I was particularly surprised by how good and off-type Efron and Byrne’s characters were and they stole the show for me. Efron’s Teddy manages to be a very cool and likeable guy (instead of the stereotypical frat douche) while still being a borderline psychotic villain at times. Similarly, Kelly (Byrne) isn’t just the sensible wife and mother. She’s as much into the thrill of messing with the frat guys as her husband is. The movie even points this out directly in a ridiculous argument that the two have about one of them basically needing to be the adult in the situation even though neither is willing. She’s a perfect comedic companion to Rogen in this film and Efron is a great antagonist. While Franco’s interactions are more with Efron that doesn’t make him any less important or funny. Those two are great at playing up the whole frat/bro bond dynamic and Franco has a great ability to deliver out-right stupid lines in a way that makes them funny. He rounds out the main 4 of this movie perfectly.

It may be hard to think of this movie as being “good” because of what it is: a raunchy comedy. These kinds of movies aren’t generally thought of as being great films but, within the genre, this is about as good as you can do it. A comedy that doesn’t have any real lulls or drop offs in pacing and actually tries to hit on some life views that you don’t usually see in movies.

If you’re not offended by crude humor (to be fair, it’s in the movie, but not constant) and you’re a fan of anything that Seth Rogen has done in the past you’ll definitely enjoy this movie. If you’re a little on the fence I’d say give it a try. The movie’s really well done and could easily turn into one of those movies that’s quoted or referenced a lot by your friends. It’s also going to have a lot of re-watch value. So, I’d definitely say go watch this one.

Neighbors (2014)

Neighbors (2014)
8.54

Story / Plot

8/10

    Characters

    9/10

      Visuals

      8/10

        Music / Audio

        8/10

          Entertainment

          9/10

            Pros

            • Zac Effron is great at playing off of both Franco and Rogen
            • Movie has a little bit more substance to it than you'd expect
            • Rose Byrne is great in a movie that could've threatened to be all about the boys

            Cons

            • Still a raunch-based comedy and has a lot of the pitfalls that come with that.
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