There's honestly nothing like an honest to goodness comedy to counter balance our viewing habits during a season that is rife with the tent pole blockbuster film outing of the week. "Neighbors" is a frat comedy that hits all the classic notes while managing to sustain some genuine heart alongside some unexpectedly gonzo performances that make for a fun, gut busting night at the movies.
When young couple Mac & Kelly Radner (Seth Rogan & Rose Byrne) move into their new house with their newborn child they think that this is it and they are settling into a more grown-up lifestyle as they envy their friends around them. However that all changes when a fraternity lead by the charmingly arrogant Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) moves in next door. The suburbanites try to play nice and re-embrace their wild college days but it quickly wears thin as these parents unwittingly start a war with their local frat house, and no one is safe.
Seemingly a master at balancing heartfelt and flawed with just the right amount of raunchy, director Nicholas Stoller doesn't necessarily hit a home run with "Neighbors" but it hits all the right notes and manages to rise above what could have been a very tired and recycled comedy premise.
Not a film that is reinventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination, but "Neighbors" is a quick witted and fast paced comedy that never gets bogged down in any unnecessary exposition, getting to the point of it's simple narrative as quickly as it possibly can generating laughs for young and old. The direction is solid and the set piece moments look pretty great as our story unfolds but what is genuinely refreshing is how surprisingly well these characters are actually written.
The script from co-writers Andrew J Cohen & Brendan O'Brien in their first feature length outing manages to take a well traveled premise but insert some characters that actually have some depth and nuance rather than just fit a stereotypical mode. These are people with hopes and dreams, and whether or not they are being masked by the decadent fraternity lifestyle or muted by the wish of still being able to go out and have a good time even with a young baby in tow, it makes these characters ultimately relatable and they come to life thanks to some wonderfully comedic performances.
Seth Rogan is obviously a master at playing the Joe Everyman comedic role and he does it well here while still keeping his mad dog, stoner comedic side who eternally exists in a frat house just bubbling underneath the surface. Zac Efron in his second movie this year is showing an alarmingly accurate talent at playing a vapid, party boy but he does successfully sprinkle in some real world pathos as his bubble begins to fracture and ultimately burst around him.
While the leads were certainly fine, it's a film like this where the supporting players are the ones who almost run away with the show entirely. Rose Byrne flashes an unexpectedly pristine sense of comedic timing that goes hand in hand Rogan that makes these two grown-ups who are struggling with the desire to be wild and have fun like the kids in the frat a marvel to watch. On the opposite side of that coin, while Efron is playing his part to the absolute hilt, Dave Franco as his second in command of the house and best friend almost steals his comedic thunder as his partner in crime and really does knock a lot of the jokes out of the park while still maintaining some genuine emotion and drama as their friendship unfolds before our eyes.
Ultimately, "Neighbors" might not rise to the level of some of the more iconic based college comedies of our time, but you'll certainly have a good time watching them try.
4 out of 5 stars.
"Neighbors" opens tomorrow in theatres all across Canada, please check with your local listings for show times.