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Movie review: Wacky, dirty 'Neighbors' moves into theaters this weekend



Neighbors (opening today) is a raunchy, outrageous and often-times hilarious film that successfully blends several genres into one. It stands out as the funniest comedy so far this year.

Scenes from "Neighbors."
Scenes from "Neighbors."
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures, 2014. Used with permission.
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures, 2014. Used with permission.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are Mac and Kelly, a married couple with a newborn baby, whose crazier days are far behind them. That's until their new neighbors move in...a fraternity led by their President, Teddy (Zac Efron). At first the couple attempts to welcome them with open arms and mind, while still trying to lay some ground rules (like a very funny scene where Mac and Kelly discuss just how to inform the frat to "keep it down" by exploring different ways to say it).

The situation though, don't go quite as planned and things escalate into a full-out war between them. The viewer is left to decide: Are you team family or team frat?

The beauty of this comedy - not even considering that it has several laugh-out-loud moments and sequences - is that you root for them both. This is very much a fraternity movie in the way that Animal House was, tapping into modern college-age humor, but lacing it with the immaturity of youth and the whole thumbing your nose at the establishment vibe. Where it breaks ground is that it looks at college through the eyes of comedy made popular in recent years...that Judd Apatow-esque brand of thirty-something humor found in films like Knocked Up and This Is 40. It's this clash of young-adult meets slightly-older adult that it finds its strength.

There are several great cameos and supporting characters, including Dave Franco and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as fellow fraternity members, Hannibal Buress as a skeptical cop and Lisa Kudrow as the Dean of the college. My favorite though, was the cameo by Jason Mantzoukas, who everyone knows as the scene-stealing Rafi from FX's The League. How does this guy not have his own starring vehicle yet?

Speaking of scene-stealing, this movie marks the comedic arrival of Rose Byrne. Sure, she has been in several movies and is already a known star, but her performance here is a thing of courageous comic gold. Nobody could have anticipated that in a film starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, Byrne would actually get the bulk of the film's funniest moments.

Rogen of course, is funny as always and his relationship with the frat guys works because we know his character was probably a pot-smoking party guy himself back in the day. Movies of the past would have cast the married couple as uptight conservative citizens, but they are made all the more funny because they aren't so much prudes, as they are young people who just happened to outgrow the college lifestyle.

Zac Efron, by the way, gives his best performance-to-date in a role that was made for him. He's always come across as self-aware and cocky, so he perfectly inhabits this selfish student who is quite confident on the outside, but who is unable to grow up. He still manages to be shirtless for a good number of scenes, which I'm sure won't hurt this film's chances of succeeding with female audiences, despite its dick and fart joke backbone.

The problems I had with the film - like believing that someone like Rose Byrne would get married to someone like Seth Rogen or how stereotypical the fraternity was being depicted - quickly dissipated as the film rolled along. The film doesn't take itself seriously in the least, and this self-awareness sets the audience into a mindset of silly fun. It's hard to fault a film for being over-the-top when it is purposely and knowingly pushing its own envelope of audacity.

Neighbors is not for the easily offended, but as R-rated comedies go, its the best offering of the year. Kudos to Seth Rogen and writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, for crafting a very funny mash-up of comedic viewpoints.

Genre: Comedy

Run Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated R

Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Directed by Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement, Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall)

Opens locally on Friday, May 9, 2014 (check for show times).

Be sure to watch Tom Santilli on TV! Check your local listings for “Movie Show Plus” for Tom’s weekly movie review segment, airing at 10:30 p.m. EST every Sunday, on MYTV20 in Detroit.

How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"

  • 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
  • 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
  • 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
  • 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
  • 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time
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