Film Review: Neighbors

by Gordon Elgart on May 9, 2014

It’s a very funny movie. What more do you need to know?

Zac Efron and Seth Rogen in Neighbors, in a scene chosen by me to get traffic if someone searches for "shirtless Zac Efron"

Zac Efron and Seth Rogen in Neighbors, in a scene chosen by me to get traffic if someone searches for “shirtless Zac Efron”

Comedy is subjective. What’s funny to you isn’t necessarily funny to me. There’s absolutely no way I can tell you that a movie is hilarious, and a must-see, and have it necessarily be the case for you. All that said, if you don’t think Neighbors is a very funny movie, I probably won’t take comedy recommendations from you in the future. It’s OK if you give me the same treatment. I’m guessing you won’t, though; this is as good as it gets in modern movie comedy.

Seth Rogen is in the lead here, playing the Seth Rogen role: an adult who still wants to live in his youthful past, and is having trouble coping with becoming a boring parent.  They even use the movie shorthand of him still being a pot smoker to show you that he hasn’t given up on his younger days. His wife is played by Rose Byrne, using her real Australian accent here, and she’s a stay-at-home mom of their six-month old daughter who’s finding that life incredibly boring. They spend their life savings on a very nice house in a very nice neighborhood, but there life is thrown into turmoil when a fraternity moves in next door.

The fraternity president is played by Zac Efron, and he’s absolutely fantastic. He finds the right balance of dumb and charming, and he absolutely seems like a bro you know. Dave Franco plays his best friend, and he has higher ambitions in his life than just being fraternity president. Their scenes together, especially an extended discussion of what “bros before hos” means, show me two things: Zac Efron should make the leap from child-star joke to leading man, and Dave Franco is the Casey Affleck to James’s Ben. I hope he continues to get roles, and escapes the shadow of his more-famous brother.

The premise is the most unbelievable thing in this movie, as this fraternity starts partying too hard, and Rogen and Byrne’s characters are the only families that seem to notice or complain. They go a little too far in their complaints, and a battle begins! Why this movie works so well is that it doesn’t completely devolve into a bunch of physical comedy set pieces. These are there, for sure, but the movie takes time to create its characters, so that much of the comedy comes from the way these characters interact.

The supporting roles are mostly forgettable. Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo and Christopher Mintz-Plasse fall firmly into the wacky side character bucket of comedy, and I was always ready to go back to the main characters when they were leading a scene. Lisa Kudrow, as the school’s dean, is the standout supporting role here. Her scenes are fantastic, even though it’s obvious they were all shot in the same day on the same set.

It’s hard to predict things like “this movie will be a classic,” so I won’t try. If it is a classic, though, I’ll tell you I told you so.

——-

Neighbors opens everywhere today.

Here’s the trailer. If you haven’t seen it before, don’t watch it now, because it ruins some of the best gags in the movie. Just go see the movie.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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