I’m sure there’s an audience out there for Neighbors, the new Seth Rogen comedy about irresponsible parents battling an even more irresponsible college fraternity that moves in next door to them; but the amount of drug and alcohol abuse, profanity, sex and crudity in this neighborhood would have Mr. Rogers rolling in his grave.
If you are prudish at all about the aforementioned subject matters, then you’ll want to avoid this movie at all cost – of course that pretty much goes without saying for any Seth Rogen vehicle. For me, it’s not necessarily the crudeness of his films that irritates me, but the smug rudeness of his demeanor, both on and off film. I just don’t care for this actor. If you are a fan, that’s great and you’ll enjoy this film a lot more than I did; but I just don’t get the appeal.
On the other hand, Rose Byrne, who plays the wife/mother in this movie, proves to be very likeable and has great comedic timing to boot, easily holding her own up against Rogen. You might remember her for her brief appearance as Moira MacTaggert in X-Men: First Class, but after Neighbors I believe she has a bright future in female comedic roles.
As directed by Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek), Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) Radner are a young upwardly mobile couple, homeowners and parents of a newborn baby. Unfortunately, for the child, they are nowhere near mature enough to be having a kid, still yearning to be out partying with their friends, even going as far as planning to take the baby along to a rave.
When the home next door goes up for sale, the Radnors anxiously anticipate who the next owners might turn out to be, and are slightly disappointed when they see a male fraternity moving in. But the couple decides to break the ice by sharing some pot with the new neighbors, just to prove that they’re “cool” and to hopefully drop a hint they would appreciate the frat being quiet.
The peaceful beginning turns awry and wackiness ensues as the college kids renege on their vow of silence and the Radners go back on their vow not to call the police. Before long it’s an all-out war between the Neighbors, which escalates into comedic violence and crude absurdity – some of it uncomfortably involving the Radner’s extremely cute baby, Stella (played by the babies, Elise & Zoey Vargas.)
The leaders of the fraternity are played by Zac Efron (of High School Musical fame) and Dave Franco (of James Franco’s brother fame), and they have one of the funniest scenes in the film, playing Robert De Niro in his Taxi-Driver and Fockers roles, respectively. Lisa Kudrow makes a cameo appearance as the Dean of the college, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (who you know as “McLovin” from Superbad) has a very small part as one of the frat boys (with a very big body part.)
Although it shares the title and a very similar theme, this movie has absolutely nothing to do with the 1981 dark comedy, Neighbors, that stars Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi (a much better film in my opinion.)
I have to admit that this film contains a few guilty laughs, and some scenes, like Rogen and Efron arguing over who is the best movie Batman (Keaton or Bale), that are particularly endearing. There are several fun pop culture references to enjoy (writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien owe a nod to Kevin Smith), but I don’t particularly enjoy watching obnoxious and offensive people on film any more than enduring them in real life. Grade: 5/5
Photos © 2014 Universal Pictures