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Neighbors: The Baby Never Cries!

Neighbors

Rating:
Star3
Star
Star
Star
Star

Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland

The battle for the street begins.
Image from Universal Pictures

Markus Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout

Now playing at Century 20 Oakridge Mall in San Jose, California:

In Act One, a fraternity moves in next to a former party couple (played by Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne) who now have a newborn and are in the midst of coming to terms with growing older. In Act Two and Three, the plot is nearly replaced by an onslaught of drug and erection jokes.

This elongated sketch of a movie is equally divided between comedic sequences which land and others which don’t. But, the biggest reason as to why “Neighbors” doesn’t gradually lose steam as its premise wears thin (and the premise does wear thin) is due to some Todd Phillips-esque direction from his cinematic twin Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and more so, the shockingly endearing chemistry between Rogan and Byrne.

Even though Zac Efron, who plays the charismatic, yet jerky head of the frat, is pretty good here (he is “pretty good” in most productions, even though most critics won’t admit it) the sequences which focus more on the frat than the couple (aka, the majority of Efron’s screen time) come off as little more than filler; and thus mostly forgettable. That’s right; this is once again a case of the content and character failing Efron, the actor.

Side Note (about the baby): A huge plotline within “Neighbors” focuses on the fact that the married couple has an infant child. Before I begin this rant, I feel that I must acknowledge the cuteness factor of the baby, who also seems to be the most well behaved in history. But problems arose for me personally, during the second half when the baby’s presence nearly disappears from the film altogether. Though the absence of this contrivance of a character may not sound like a big deal on paper, it is, if only due to the fact that the child is the main source of conflict between Rogan and Byrne’s characters and their temptation to re-enter the party scene. At the very least, this non-inclusion is a distracting plot-hole. You see, once the baby is introduced, I don’t believe audiences will be able to help themselves but inquire on the whereabouts of the infant during countless stretches of time where Rogan and Byrne leave their house in order to interact with their neighbors.

Final Thought: So, aside from the whole “missing baby” thing, I guess my biggest issue with this movie comes down to the simple fact that as a frat-comedy, it falls short. I mean, if you are a fan of Seth Rogan-Evan Goldberg productions, then “Neighbors” will be enjoyable enough to pay to see in the theaters. Like I said before, this isn’t without laughs; it’s about 50% laughs, 50% waiting to laugh. But if you are looking for a hilarious frat movie, like the one promised in the trailers, then re-watch “Old School” for free, instead.

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