Whether you like or dislike ‘Neighbors’ has a great deal to do with Seth Rogen. His brand of comedy teeters on raunchy and appeals to a younger audience. Despite the film’s best efforts, it is no ‘Animal House.’ Twenty-somethings may beg to differ with me. Rogen comes from the Judd Apatow School of Comedy. If you enjoyed him in ‘Knocked Up’ and ‘Pineapple Express,’ chances are you’ll like his brand of humor in ‘Neighbors.’ For those moviegoers that don’t find penis and pot jokes very funny, you might want to rethink your decision to see it. Director Nicholas Stoller never seems to find the film’s heart like he did with his 2008 romantic comedy ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall.’
New parents Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne who gets to keep her Australian accent) are a thirty-something couple with a new baby. They miss those carefree party days when they met in college. With the purchase of their first home in the suburbs, they are still adjusting to their responsibilities of parenthood. Mac and Kelly show off their wild side by making love in every room of their new home and having a weed stash. They are on their way to living happily ever after until a college fraternity buys the house next door. The frat Delta Psi is led by its President Teddy (Zac Efron) and his right-hand VP Pete (Dave Franco, actor James Franco’s little brother). At first, the couple is all for it. Teddy even invites Mac and Kelly over for their first housewarming party. One of the wittiest scenes is the debate Mac and Teddy have over who is the best Batman. It perfectly illustrates the generational gap between the two.
Teddy ensures the couple that they will keep it down and to call him if the noise level gets out of control. The following night, the frat has another party with wall-shaking music. When Mac’s attempts to call Teddy to lower the music are ignored, he decides to call the police. When they learn that Mac called the cops on their party, the feud is on. The fraternity begins to haze the couple with a barrage of pranks. Some of the gags are downright psychotic. There is a scene where the frat boys dress up as different characters in Robert De Niro films. Teddy portrays the Mohawk-clad Travis Bickle from ‘Taxi Driver’ and Pete dresses up as Jack Byrnes from ‘Meet the Fockers.’ It’s creepy how they make life miserable for Mac and Kelly. When their baby girl encounters a condom on the front lawn, it’s the last straw. It’s actually not funny at all. The only thing that runs through your mind is the safety of the baby at this point in the movie.
The main problem with this movie goes back to the story. Screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien resort to the usual college gags to get the audience laughing. It fails to find the right balance. Part of the film deals with the couple’s struggle as responsible parents. Older moviegoers will be able to relate to their predicament. The other half of the film tries to confront the fraternity’s struggle in dealing with the real world after graduation. It’s a legitimate concern that their party days are almost over and that Mac and Kelly represent their future as adults. It simply doesn’t work. It’s difficult to empathize with Zac Efron’s character. Efron always looks like he is acting and not fully invested into the role. He just isn’t a very likable guy and the story’s third act suffers greatly from it.
If you want to experience the best frat movie ever made, you cannot go wrong with renting ‘Animal House’ starring John Belushi. It’s still the benchmark after all these years. Whether you like ‘Neighbor’s’ or not, this ‘Jackass’ brand of humor is guaranteed to find its audience with the younger demographic. Here is the official trailer http://youtu.be/pzZgJZMXNEc.