***1/2 (out of 5)
May 9, 2014
Seth Rogen as MAC RADNER
Rose Byrne as KELLY RADNER
Zac Efron as TEDDY SANDERS
Dave Franco as PETE
Ike Barinholtz as JIMMY
Carla Gallo as PAULA
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
By now, people know what to expect when you get a Seth Rogen comedy. They’re juvenile, raunchy, crass, ribald and often not realistic in any way. However, ever since “Knocked Up” made him an unexpected star seven years ago, the man has made a cottage industry of his on-screen persona.
For the most part, I like his movies. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a fan of his work, but I do find many of his films to be pretty funny. Knowing all of this makes it pretty easy to predict the likeability of his movies. Sure, there are aberrations like “Observe and Report” (which you either love of hate, but are aware it’s a tiny step outside of Rogen’s normal wheelhouse). However, unlike Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you know exactly what you’re going to get with an R-rated Seth Rogen comedy.
For better or for worse, “Neighbors” is exactly what you’d expect it to be. If you like Rogen’s brand of comedy, this is a good thing. If you hate him, you’ll want to avoid this film. Forget the presence of Zac Efron. Piercing blue eyes, rock hard abs and inguinal crease aside, Seth Rogen is the draw and Efron is just window dressing.
“Neighbors” tells the story of a nice suburban couple (Rogen and Rose Byrne) who have just had a baby and are settling into their new home. Happy with the neighborhood, they’re distressed to discover that a fraternity has moved in next door. At first, they try to play nice with the frat, but a few loud, late-night parties and a call to the police starts an ever-escalating war between the family and the frat.
Like many of the other films that Rogen is involved in, there’s plenty of funny jokes and laugh-out-loud moments. Don’t worry that all the funniest moments are in the advertisements because there’s a lot of R-rated humor that could never find its way into a standard greenband trailer.
The story is a bit choppy, and it has logic holes big enough to drive the frat’s moving truck through. Still, it’s the in-your-face and aggressively crass humor that saves a lot of these moments. The movie also works because Rogen has a strong cast around him. Zac Efron and Dave Franco are pretty great at the president and vice president of the fraternity. They offer a good foil to the family, and they’re both likeable enough to not end up hating them for their party attitude. Similarly, Ike Barinholtz from “The Mindy Project” on TV turns in a hilarious performance as the bumbling best friend.
However, the real glue in this film is Rose Byrne, whom I’ve never been a huge fan of, actually. Normally she’s either playing a straight role in a drama or genre film (like “X-Men: First Class” or “Insidious”), or she’s playing the wingman to a comedian in a funny movie (e.g., opposite Russell Brand in “Get Him to the Greek” or opposite Kristen Wiig in “Bridesmaids”).
In “Neighbors,” she has a chance to shine and show off some of her comedic talents. Rogen doesn’t run roughshod over her, proving that she has the chops to hold her own in a comedy. She also provides the much-needed balance to the family side of the feud Rogen can’t seem to break out of his stoner persona, even when he’s supposed to be the responsible adult.
In fact, that’s my biggest gripe with the film, that Rogen is in essence playing the exact same character he always plays, only in a different setting. He really needs to take a nod from his buddy Jonah Hill who can play all sorts of roles and not just someone obsessed with weed.
Still, “Neighbors” is a very funny movie and works as a strong film in the early days of May to provide an escape before the summer movie season becomes a juggernaut when school is out.