Thank goodness “Neighbors” (in theaters everywhere Friday, May 9) embraced the hard R-rating. When synopses that pitted a couple of new parents against a fraternity that becomes their next door neighbors first dropped it sounded like a concept that would be watered down to mediocrity in order to court the lucrative PG-13 audience. Happily, director Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) chose to take Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Ike Bairnholtz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, an incredible amount of dirty jokes, substance use, pop culture references and obscenities and toss them into a blender. What comes out is a crazy concoction that, though it depends on easy humor, is the perfect summer comedy.
Rogen and Byrne are Mac and Kelly Radner, a pair of new parents, who haven’t quite yet settled into the role of parenthood, thinking it has made them boring. When the house next door to theirs goes up for sale they are delighted to see a gay couple liking at it, a possible outcome Kelly calls “the dream,”. Mac shares her enthusiasm but says that a Taco Bell next door would be the “first dream,” but the gay couple would be a solid number two. As luck would have it, neither of them get their wish. Instead a fraternity, (legendary for its parties, of course) headed up by Teddy (Efron) and Pete (Franco), moves in. Recognizing the potential nightmare this could become, but also still compelled to be seen as hip, the Radners decide to make a peace offering of a single joint to the frat, while also requesting that they keep it down.
At first, all seems to go well, the frats appreciate the gift and invite the Radners to party, a night full of bad decisions ensues and everyone seems chummy. However, when the following night finds frat leader Teddy unattentive to the keep it down requests and the Radners call the cops their relationship goes downhill faster than an olympic skier. As the war between the frat and the Radners escalates the silliness and dumb humor shoot through the roof, but since the laughs do as well, this isn’t really cause for complaint.
As the proceedings roll along the pranks and did-they-just-go-there humor are sprinkled with some truly excellent cameos ranging from Andy Samberg and Adam DeVine to Jake Johnson and Lisa Kudrow, even Jason Mantzoukas (Rafi of “The League”) gets in on the fun.
It’s hard to say who takes the cake for best one upmanship and gags, but it is true that Rogen, Byrne, Franco and Efron all enjoy a fair amount of gut-busting moments. We get to see the frats in some pretty impressive De Niro getups and doing things with airbags that shouldn’t be nearly as funny as they are, while Rogen and Byrne get to use having been there and done that against their neighbors, and also to go back and revisit the wild reckless days of adolescence––and they make it look like a ton of fun.
Those willing to embrace some debauchery, depravity and deviant behavior in the name of chuckles will have a fantastic time with “Neighbors”, and let’s be honest, everyone has to take a moment to appreciate Zac Efron’s physique––though it is hard to say whether his arms or his pretty dang good looks as a drag queen are more impressive, either way, everyone wins.