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'Neighbors' review: Efron and Rogen kickoff summer with a hilarious rager

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Neighbors

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The first comedy of the summer season is here and it immediately sets the bar high for all that will follow. “Neighbors” is a raging laugh-fest whose main objective is to just keep the laughs coming. Well, mission accomplished. The break-neck speed of the jokes leave little room for any real story, which keeps it out of the class of something like “Hangover” or “Knocked Up.” But Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and company have a cult comedy on their hands, something that will register with college kids and late 20s/early 30 year olds.

Neighbors” doesn’t waste any time to get the audience laughing, as Rogen and Rose Byrne are immediately confronted with their problem of wanting to have their cake and eat it too – be responsible, young parents but have the same kind of fun they did before the baby arrived. Rogen and Byrne have good chemistry together and are able to keep their character’s conflicting desires in check and consistently humorous.

The real breakout star, though, is Zac Efron. Efron has been best known for being a pretty face, and while he still is that here, he also proves that he can be pretty funny. Efron really seemed to let loose with this role and it resulted in a charismatic turn and he actually provides some of the biggest laughs of the movie.

Like Rogen and Byrne, though, Efron’s character isn’t without bigger problems either. In fact, most of the characters are more developed than you see a lot of times in comedies of this ilk. They could have easily made the frat kids all drunken douchebags, but outside of Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s character, the main kids are all real characters rather than caricatures.

The story, however, is about as light as the beer in the kegs at frat parties, but it covers all its bases and gets the job done in a satisfying way. While the break-neck pace keeps you laughing for most of the run-time, it doesn’t make too much room for a lot of plot developments. Any problem other than the back-and-forth battle between the titular neighbors is solved almost instantly. And the individual character problems for Rogen, Byrne and Efron are wrapped up nice and neatly right at the end of the film with matter-of-fact exposition. Thankfully, they present it in a funny enough way it’s forgivable, but still disappointing.

Another issue was that it felt like they were editing for jokes and not for story. Some of the biggest laughs come from when the actors are improvising, but you can clearly tell that that was the case because the scene is choppy; to fit in what ever was funniest. That didn’t help the story any because the film feels like individual sketches as much as it does a linear film.

Even so, director Nicholas Stoller and writers Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien should be given their dues. While a lot of improvisation happened to be sure, Cohen and O’Brien’s script not only was extremely humorous, but it made sure to offer more than a bunch of dick and weed jokes. Stoller, meanwhile, probably goes right behind Judd Apatow as one of the better comedy directors of the gross-out era. With a body of work that includes “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him to the Greek,” he’s made some of the funnier movies of the last ten years, but has also made them all consistently solid movies overall.

There will be plenty of opportunities to laugh at the movie theaters this summer, but every single one of the will have to measure up with “Neighbors.” One of them might prove to be a better film, but it won’t be easy to top what “Neighbors” brought in terms of laughs.

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