Friday, May 9, 2014

Neighbors



NEIGHBORS: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, directed by Nicholas Stoller (96 min.) 

Neighbors is utterly preposterous, but it is still a raucous comedy and a lot of fun.  Not only is it raunchy and out of control, it is also an absurd satire on the transition from college life and non stop partying into the mundane world of adulthood, parenthood, and responsibility.  Most of us men are never quite ready for such a switch, and many women are right alongside us.  Such is the case with Mac and Kelly, new parents played by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne.  Mac is slowly trying to shift into a businessman, and the shift is painful to his youthful drive.  Kelly is a stay-at-home mom who tries to hide her daily boredom.  Of course Mac and Kelly love each other, they have a nice home, and they adore their beautiful baby girl, Stella, but the switch is still a rough road.  So when a fraternity moves into the house next door, the parents find themselves torn between trying to remain relevant and young, and asking their new neighbors - in the coolest way possible - to keep it down a tad.

The president of the fraternity is Teddy, played by a sculpted and cocky Zac Efron.  Teddy has more aspirations for becoming a legend in his own fraternity than he is with attending class, and he has more muscles than brain cells, although that aspect isn't played up as much as it should have been.  He has a dream that involves the biggest baddest party at the end of the semester, but of course practice parties must get underway immediately.  Teddy's right-hand man is Pete, played by James Franco's younger brother Dave, and he seems to have gotten the lion's share of IQ points.

Mac and Kelly attempt to make friends with Teddy and his brothers on the outset, sharing weed with them as a peace offering. They end up staying all night and partying because, well, they have the baby monitor so its fine to leave your four-month old at home alone.  Bonds seem to have been forged and friends made, but pretty soon Teddy doesn't listen to their pleas to keep things down, the cops are called, and Mac and Teddy begin a war of pranks and underhanded schemes against one another that run the length of the film.  The sabotages escalate in some funny scenes, some not quite as funny, but all with a great deal of energy and conviction from the actors.

The attempts from Mac and Kelly get elaborate.  They try and sabotage the house by flooding the basement because college kids don't have money to fix things like that.  But the fraternity brothers raise money by making some plastic molds of certain body parts in a sequence that feels forced and isn't as funny as it might have been on paper.  Then they decide to try and turn Teddy and Pete against each other which works, but then it doesn't work or it doesn't really have much of an effect.  Mac and Kelly employ their two friends, the main one being Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz), to help take down the fraternity and, naturally, chaos ensues.  Jimmy does what any self-respecting idiot sidekick friend should do, and that is get the elephant's share of laughs.

Some things really work in Neighbors, other things are just a little too clumsy or they miss the mark in the humor department.  Efron is solid, and even a little sinister as Teddy.  And in a nice ironic twist, or perhaps just a sign of the times and the natural progression of age, it is funny to see Seth Rogen struggling to be the responsible adult in a film like this.  Rose Byrne has her moments too, although one scene involving her breast milk in the middle of the picture is one of those aforementioned moments that don't really induce laughs so much as unease.  That is the gist of Neighbors, which is laugh out loud hilarious when it is focused, but head scratching from time to time.  Fortunately, the hits manage to outweigh the misses in the end.

B