“Neighbors” Movie Review

     There’s nothing necessarily original about director Nicholas Stoller’s “Neighbors”, but the Seth Rogan / Zac Efron cross generational comedy excels in it’s timing and execution, allowing for a surprisingly solid moviegoing experience.  Stoller, having directed “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him To The Greek”, is no stranger to this type of fare and the resulting film indicates he has nearly perfected the elements needed to give an audience their comedy fix.  The direction is rapid fire with the gags and razor sharp dialogue coming at you with all the speed and ferocity of a bullet train.  By now, we know Seth Rogan can play this type of role in his sleep, yet he still delivers in much the same way he has in past successful efforts like “Knocked Up” and last summer’s “This Is The End”.  Not known for star turns in raunchy comedies, Zac Efron’s persona certainly translates well to this genre, though one wouldn’t think playing a frat house president would be much of a stretch for the young actor.  Screenwriting tandem Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien supply copious amounts of situational comedy, taking full advantage of a plot that focuses on the differences between people based on the stage of life they currently find themselves in.

     Mac (Rogan) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) are presented as your fairly normal thirty something couple, having just moved into their first home with a new baby and plenty to look forward to.  Mac holds down a cubicle job similar to the environment seen in the film “Office Space”, while Kelly focuses on their new child, though she suffers from ever increasing boredom.  Fact is, this couple hasn’t really moved on from their implied party days.  Their struggles with single friends inviting them to parties and the lack of energy at the end of the day are well documented in the early scenes of the film.  Things; however, are about to change in a way they couldn’t possibly have imagined.

     Shortly after moving into their new home, Mac and Kelly become neighbors with a local college fraternity, who move into the vacant house next door.  They instantly see the writing on the wall, envisioning sleepless nights from endless party noise, and decide to introduce themselves after conjuring up a method by which to do so.  As a couple not far from their younger years, they still believe they know and understand college age kids and attempt to befriend the group by using terms they believe appear in a 20 year old’s vocabulary. In other words, they use their perception of popular culture and stereotype their new neighbors in an effort to seem cool. This is where the cross generational antics begin and from here they don’t stop again for the entire duration of the film’s running time.  The frat president, Terry (Efron), decides to invite Mac and Kelly to their first big party where both sides seem to hit it off.  At a minimum, they certainly have no problem blending in with their younger counterparts, holding their own in both the consumption of alcohol as well as pot and mushrooms.  Perhaps the best part of their initial friendship is the verbal exchanges between Terry and Mac, especially one in which they debate who’s “Batman” actor of their generation was better.  There’s plenty to like about a conversation involving the merits of Michael Keaton versus Christian Bale in the role of the Caped Crusader.

     After a night of partying as if they’re ten years younger, Mac and Kelly find themselves back to reality and the responsibilities of life with a newborn baby.  Problem is, Terry and his cohorts have no intention of slowing down their lifestyle to appease their neighbors.  As the parties continue to get bigger and badder, Mac and Kelly find it impossible to sleep, as does their baby.  Though Terry promised to keep the noise down, they determine their only recourse is to call the police for a loud music complaint.  When the cops reveal to Terry who called, a war between neighbors ensues which sets the stage for a “can you top this” competition that quickly crosses the line on both sides.  The gags range from raunchy to outright destruction of property with everything in between as Zac and Terry engage in a hilarious turf war, while Rose Byrne’s Kelly steals scene after scene from both of them.

     A consistent problem with comedies is the marketing choices the studios make in order to attract a mainstream audience.  It seems as though the very funniest bits are featured front and center in the film’s trailer, leaving very little to laugh at during the actual viewing of the film.  For the most part, “Neighbors” avoids this pitfall, though I would’ve excluded a site gag involving a vehicle’s airbag and left it as a surprise which potentially could’ve brought the house down.  Expecting it going in still has a high level of comedic impact, but the film is fortunate to be full of material which surpasses anything the marketing team showed us in the trailer.  Rogan, who uses his less than appealing physique in much the same way Melissa McCarthy does, shines in every scene and is matched perfectly against Efron as they do battle in a story that harks back to the very best frat comedies of the late 70s and early 80s, including “Animal House” and “Revenge of the Nerds”. 

     The cast rounds out nicely with difference making roles for Dave Franco and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, as the screenwriters ensure everyone involved is given numerous quality moments in the film.  The result is a consistently funny film that is sure to please each and every mainstream audience who sees it.  Comedies are often overhyped and unoriginal, issues “Neighbors” avoids throughout, as I have to go back to “40 Year Old Virgin” and “Wedding Crashers” to remember a film that had me laughing as often. Expect big returns from “Neighbors” as it provides the perfect choice of counter programming to the typical summer  offerings loaded with expensive studio tent poles which rarely deliver on their promises.  GRADE: B+