The comedy “Neighbors” is a decidedly mediocre movie. It occasionally strays above the line and occasionally below it but always returns to the middle. Turning points happen where you would expect them to, it’s three protagonists are likeable enough, go through small character arcs in all the right spots, there are minor supporting characters that function as comic relief, including maintaining the Shakespearean tradition of a secondary, non-serious romance. And everything is brought in for a smooth landing at just over an hour-and-a-half.
The set-up is very of a sitcom with a frat house moving into a residential neighbourhood next door to a couple (Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen) in their early 30s with a baby. That scenario is not necessarily hard to believe since I’ve heard of off-campus frats and in Canada all frats are off campus. But it’s a bit of a stretch when the cops are called and the cop is bought off by the frat. This gives them a permanent license to throw ragers at their leisure. The parties are so loud that for the couple it’s like being in the frat house, and the constant presence of the fraternity members hanging around on the property line is an invasion of their privacy.
Initially the neighbors try and preemptively placate each other, with the couple going through the motions of making a polite friendship with the frat president (Zac Efron) and asking him to keep the noise down for the baby and him agreeing, but both parties knowing that won’t be the case.
Eventually they start fighting, initiated by the couple who want to sully the frat enough that the university will dissolve it. This eventually goes way out of control and into potentially dangerous territory when the frat initiates a complicated scheme that involves breaking into the couple’s car, home, and workplace. How legal action isn’t taken after that is hard to understand.
I liked Efron as the frat president. He looks the part and it’s the movie’s strongest point that he and the filmmakers don’t have him as a villain. He is an antagonist for the couple, yes, but not a villain. A pretty frat president would be easy villain material and most movies would indulge that temptation. He comes across as a normal guy whose interests are very different from those of the couple.
So, in the end I laughed a couple times, was mildly bored at others, and ultimately could have used my time better.
** (out of 4)
David Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.