It is true that if you go beneath…way beneath… the wealth of penis and bong jokes that is “Neighbors,” a few interesting subjects are addressed. But let’s face it—no one is going to see “Neighbors” for a discussion on peer pressure, growing up or the meaning of life. That discussion is saved for “This is the End”…just kidding. Directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, “Neighbors” is the story of a young couple, Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) and their baby, Stella, who have moved into their new home only to discover that a fraternity, headed by Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) is moving next door to them.
Already concerned that their youth is slipping away, Mac and Kelly now feel positively ancient with the frat house so close. The two decide to play it “cool,” by going over to the house with their baby, introducing themselves and just asking the guys if they can remember to try to keep the noise down. The request seems to work…at first. Mac and Teddy bond over “Batman” and Kelly manages to fit in with the frat brothers’ female companions. But then a call to the police goes very bad and soon there is all out warfare between the two homes…some very subtle harassment and other more blatant, explosive attacks.
What “Neighbors” has in spades is some terrific comic acting. Seth Rogen is always spot-on and this film is no different. There’s something about him that is just so loveable that you find yourself immediately on his side, no matter what. But in “Neighbors” he is surprisingly matched step-for-step by Rose Byrne. She proves to be a very talented comedic actress and she and Rogen mesh perfectly. Zac Efron demonstrates again that he is more than just a pretty face. Very good in the little seen drama, “At Any Price,” he shows that he is right at home on comic turf, too. And when the film calls for it, on a slightly more serious side, he does a convincing job portraying someone who doesn’t have much going on other than his fraternity. Dave Franco as Teddy’s sidekick, Pete, has a good turn as the fraternity’s voice of reason and someone who knows when it’s time to put the high jinks behind him. The lead actors are supported by a very strong, predominately male cast. However, a special shout-out must go to the film’s scene stealers, twins Elise and Zoey Vargas as Stella. These girls are amazing. They really seem to be acting and their work with Rogen is especially good and extremely funny.
But ultimately the writing feels a bit stale and tired. Most of the real laughs have been seen in the previews. After a while penis and pot jokes just aren’t all that funny. “Neighbors” starts out with a bang, but ultimately sputters out…except for baby Stella.