May 10, 2014


Your future is beside you

Grade: C +
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron and Dave Franco
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

As the thirty-something couple at the center of Neighbors, Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and wife Kelly (Rose Byrne) resemble less a satirical portrait of arrested domestic development than an improv comedy troupe with a prop baby and prosthetic mammaries.

Mac and Kelly’s parental everyday of bringing up baby by day and being too tired to party at night is broken when a fraternity house moves into the house next door. Mac and Kelly initially attempt to bond with the frat’s leaders, Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), over shrooms and shots during an all-night rager. But a mere day later, when the frat ignores their pleas for nocturnal tranquility, Mac and Kelly call the police and draw Teddy’s ire in the process.

An annoyance-off ensues. Alpha dog Teddy—who Mac says has a body that looks like it was designed by gay men in a laboratory—and the rest of Delta Psi trash the couple’s lawn and trim their bushes into obscene topiaries; so, Mac floods the frat’s basement. Teddy steals the airbags out of the couple’s station wagon and plants them around as booby traps; Kelly hatches a plan to turn Teddy and Pete against each other by coaxing Pete to have sex with Teddy’s girlfriend.

The latter is just one of at least three occasions during which Mac and Kelly’s decision to party hearty at the frat leaves you worried for the wellbeing of their child (wherever she is). It’s hard to buy a premise built around parents preventing noise that keeps their baby awake when those same parents periodically leave their baby unattended all night to indulge in bacchanalia with those noisemakers.

It’s also hard to believe that not a single other neighbor on the block calls to complain about a frat that parties loudly virtually every night. But that would resolve the narrative conflict before we get a chance to witness the frat boys strike molds of their genetalia to sell as a fundraiser, or Mac have to milk Kelly’s distended breasts.

The twist, of course, is that instead of the stereotypical upright, oh-so-proper squares, Mac and Kelly are as reckless and flawed as their younger foils. But the more engaging couple is the bromance between Teddy and Dave. While Teddy wants to stay young and wild forever, Dave is gravitating toward the realities of adulthood.

While Rogen and Byrne—quickly becoming the queen of B-comedies—are given the most airtime, Efron and Franco are the surprising standouts. But their efforts, like everyone else here, are squandered on a storyline more grounded in endless bawdy talk and gross-out gags. You expect, even desire a certain amount of that in a Seth Rogen comedy directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall). But in Neighbors, it’s just unintended evidence of bad parenting, bad youngsters and a bad movie.

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