Neighbors (2014)

Posted by Joel Copling on May 9, 2014

It's very likely that, in the existential battle between younger and older generations, the former will edge out the latter. It's all about progression or, as "Neighbors" wisely reasons, the acceptance of life after the insane, drug-fueled frat parties of one's college years. This is, first and foremost, a very R-rated summer comedy about insane, excessive, drug-fueled frat parties held in a part of the suburb also inhabited by off-campus housing and the married couple that just wants them to stop for the sake of a new child. But what screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien find in between the lines of their chaotic situational gags is relatively surprising thematic growth within its characters. They're not merely physical gags for the sake of themselves.

The married couple is Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne), college sweethearts with a newborn (and unbearably precious) daughter named Stella (Elise and Zoey Vargas) whose lives are both contented and, perhaps, slightly bored. He has a boring desk job, from which he escapes regularly with buddy Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) to smoke a joint; she's a stay-at-home mom handed nearly all the responsibility of two parents while he's away. They long for the innocence of their younger years, but Mac reckons that the common intonation that the first six months following the birth of a child "sucks" is probably true. In an amusing scene, the pair misses the chance to attend a rave with friend--and Jimmy's ex-wife--Paula (Carla Gallo) because they are fussing over Stella to the point of exhaustion.

Enter Delta Psi Beta, a fraternity whose president Teddy Sanders' (Zac Efron) ultimate goal by the time he graduates is to make it onto the wall of pictures of the legendary among the fraternity alumni. Delta Psi Beta makes Mac and Kelly's life with their new kid a hellish experience. A large portion of the second act of "Neighbors" consists of party sequences, made vibrant by Brandon Trost's cinematography, and indeed, it's the most repetitive element of Cohen and O'Brien's screenplay, especially as it becomes a battle of immaturity between Mac and Kelly and Teddy and his vice-president Pete (Dave Franco) to see who can one-up whom. Parties will be broken up and disciplinary strikes will be given to the fraternity by the school's dean (Lisa Kudrow), because Mac and Kelly will just simply have none of this.

Luckily Cohen, O'Brien, and director Nicholas Stoller never let that immaturity into their treatment of these characters, who are kept on the level through a series of plainly-defined characterizations and motives. Little Stella's positive upbringing is genuine motivation enough for Mac and Kelly--especially in the face of an unused, easily retrievable condom on their front yard--while Teddy is fleshed out just enough for us to realize that this is not so much a daffy dumbo of a frat hunk but a real guy who realizes his superficial nature by the end and seeks to remedy it perhaps a bit too late. "Neighbors" might be a raucously good time, but there's a heart underneath the humor to which its makers attend with a graceful balance.

Film Information

Seth Rogen (Mac Radner), Rose Byrne (Kelly Radner), Zac Efron (Teddy Sanders), Dave Franco (Pete), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Scoonie), Ike Barinholtz (Jimmy), Carla Gallo (Paula), Hannibal Buress (Officer Watkins), Lisa Kudrow (Dean Carol Gladstone), Jake Johnson (Sebastian Cremmington), Halston Sage (Brooke), Jerrod Carmichael (Garf), Craig Roberts (Assjuice), Ali Cobrin (Whitney), Kira Sternbach (Brittany), Jason Mantzoukas (Dr. Theodorakis), Liz Cackowski (Wendy the Realtor), Elise Vargas (Stella), Zoey Vargas (Stella), Andy Samberg (Toga #1), Akiva Schaffer (Toga #2), Jorma Taccone (Toga #3).

Directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien.

Rated R (pervasive language, crude/sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use throughout).

96 minutes.

Released on May 9, 2014.