Article By: Dan Clark There are certain prominent names in today’s world of comedy that gained a substantial amount of fans and detractors. Seth Rogen certainly fits into that category. Some view him as one of today’s best comedic minds, whereas others have grown tired of his consistent reliance on gross out antics, man-boy characters, and pot humor. His latest film Neighbors covers the familiar ground that he is known for with just the slightest of twists. Naysayers will not turn into diehard fanatics, but those who have come to enjoy his comedic style with certainty be pleased with the results.
In the film Rogen and Rose Byrne play the parents of a newborn child, who are struggling to fully embrace the responsibilities of adulthood. Part of them still wants to be the fun-loving partiers they once were, and the other part of them just wants to get some sleep. Complications ensue when a fraternity house known for some of the most epic parties in college history moves in next door. Now they are challenged to be the cool parents they believe they are, while making sure everyone keeps it down.
Zach Efron plays the foil to their peace and quiet as the president of the infamous fraternity. By this point Efron has done as much as possible to wipe away the Disney Star stigma that was once attached to him. Here he works because he does not become an overly arrogant cliché of a character. Certainty he is a heightened version of your typical frat guy, but there are enough likeable qualities about him to stop his presence from becoming graining.
Getting Nicholas Stoller to direct was an intriguing choice. He comes from a similar comedic background as Rogen with movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. His films however, tend to rely strongly on characters and their relationships with one another. Here there are three major relationship—the fraternity brothers—the married couple—and how those two groups interact with one another. Stoller appropriately used these different facets to allow the comedy to flow from multiple angles.
Rogen and Bryne surprising work rather well as this maladroit couple who are not quite ready to be first time parents. We know what Rogen brings to the table, but Bryne shows her own set of comedic chops. She adds a bit of class to all the potty humor, although she is not afraid to join in on the gross-out antics. A milking scene in particular stands out as one of the films biggest highlights.
Efron and crew play the familiar role of drug and sex crazed college kids. Much of their dialog is made up of an assortment of bro’s, obnoxious frat chants, and self-aggrandizing proclamations. At first their relationship with their new neighbors is copacetic. Efron and Rogen have a bromance brewing as they bond over generational difference, like who they picture when they think of Batman. After a trust if violated that relationship crumbles and a rivalry forms with both sides trying to force the other one out.
An escalation of pranks quickly erupts—many of which involve Seth Rogen being physically mauled in some way. Obviously these pranks provide the outlandish broad comedy one would expect. Some situations hit harder than others, but the smaller moments are where the generational differences are used most effectively. Rogen becoming frustrated with the Frat’s Robert De Niro party is a prime illustration of this point. The frat’s attempt to show they are cultured in the cinematic arts is thwarted by the fact they continuously get lines, actors, and roles incorrect. Of course this infuriates Rogen in this updated take on the ‘kids get off my lawn’ bit.
As the story plays out it becomes apparent this rivalry is really a distraction from a reality neither wishes to face—whether it is realizing you have become the oldest person at the party, or the future you thought was a long ways away is now rapidly approaching. Providing context to the craziness is a welcome attempt. There are some characters here that are more than exaggerated stereotypes, but by the end the majority of the character development is glossed over in favor of a bigger and bolder finish.
When it comes to comedy the bottom line is does it make you laugh, and if it does are those laughs genuine or are they hallow expressions that will quickly be forgotten. Neighbors provides a little bit of both. If you found the marketing for it to be humorous you will surely find the film to be the same. It is like hearing a comedian perform one of his past sets. The set-ups are well-known but the punchlines are different enough to earn your laughter.