It’s a tale of camaraderie, enduring friendships and growing up.
OK, so it's basically the new school vs. old school party in the form of Zac Efron and Seth Rogen set against the backdrop of a fraternity in a family neighborhood. But that doesn’t rob Neighbors of the above undertones. Mostly though, it’s just funny and exactly what you want out of a Seth Rogen vs. frat boys comedy.
Rogen plays Mac Radner, father and husband to Rose Byrne’s Kelly in one of the most improbable couplings to date in a Nicholas Stoller-directed film (The Five-Year Engagement, Forgetting Sarah Marshall). They’re barely adults, struggling to maintain their college-mindset lifestyles with a new baby, a house and job responsibilities. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t cherish the quiet of their neighborhood. So when a college fraternity moves in next door, it’s a mixed bag for the family.
That frat includes Teddy as played by the ridiculously pretty Efron, who is as chiseled and initially charming as ever. His right-hand man is Pete, who is literally portrayed by the “younger James Franco,” brother Dave Franco. They roll in as an insta-party entourage from the get, unfurling across the lawn in a swirl of beach balls, red solo cups and Frisbees.
In an ill-attempt to play the cool kids, Mac and Kelly initially befriend the frat, only to lose Teddy’s trust by calling the cops to make a noise complaint. From there, it’s family vs. frat in a turf war that escalates out of control.
Behind that battle though are parallel sub-plots about the friendship between Efron and Franco and the awkward shift into parenthood for Rogen and Byrne. He may not be “that Franco,” but Dave Franco is really great at being the guy you know is a blast, but also knows when to hit the books. Efron gets to be the alpha dude with no direction (and it is hard not to link Teddy’s party ways with Efron’s own real-life struggles with alcohol and drugs), but the two share a lovely bromance all the same.
Rogen remains Rogen. If that’s what you’re into, he’s at his best, but I’d need far more backstory to understand how he would snag Byrne. Props should also go out to supporting cast member Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project) as Mac’s best friend, Jimmy. He could have taken this frat on by himself, but he’s a great counterpart to Rogen.
Ultimately none of this matters, because this is about fulfilling a bro fantasy of partying with a big dog like Rogen in a frat setting. And it’s absolutely entertaining and hilarious at times.
Neighbors is now open in theaters.