Writers: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien
Actors: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Running time: 97 mins.
Plotline: Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen & Rose Byrne) fear a toxic environment for their young child and strive to maintain their “cool”, when they suddenly have to contend with a fraternity that moves in next door.
Review: I cannot off-hand think of many good movies that get increasingly funnier as their plot progress. For most comedy films it’s a scattershot wherein a viewer is either lucky enough to have a few decent laughs sprinkled throughout, or one or two hugely laugh out loud moments. The cleverness of “Neighbors” is that thanks to its unusually strong cast, balanced performances, multi-dimensional character’s, and some assured direction, it comes out on the high-end of R-Rated comedies and is worth seeing before everyone spoils it for you.
It’s weird all of a sudden to see Seth Rogen playing a character who is more or less a mature adult man. Contrasting the 32-year-old with a 26-year-old Zac Efron and 29-year-old Dave Franco and distinguishing them as a separate generations might seem a bit tricky to pull off, but it is done successfully here because the audience is mainly focused on the laughs, and when the occasion calls for it good performances.
I wouldn’t say that anyone blows it out of the water here in the dramatic acting or comedy front because that would mean to say that there is a weak link in the chained fence, and there certainly isn’t. Everyone here brings their own strengths and various abilities that director Nicholas Stoller is able to shine a light on.
Rose Byrne, in her natural and very attractive Australian accent is both hilarious and sexy in a role that ordinarily would be underwritten or written out, by most film accounts in a thankless wife role. (Apparently it wasn’t until Seth Rogen’s wife read the script that she suggested to him the character be expanded and be apart of the active narrative force.) It is one of the funniest female movie roles that I’ve seen.
Zac Efron plays his role serious and straight-laced (known formally as the straight-man in comedic jargon), and in doing so not only surprisingly gives the film its heart but also provides a complex antagonist. He’s the most realistic and fleshed out character. Who also closely resembles people I’ve known. I would by no means say that he’s a brilliant actor, but being able to offer depth without overplaying it shows a professional restraint here that signals he’s well on his way up in hollywood. Succeeding where “That Awkward Moment” failed, this is easily his best performance that I have seen.
It’s fitting that he be matched with the simultaneously funny and serious Dave Franco. His character Pete is an awkward and tough role to balance and get right providing a great buffer between the outlandish Radner’s (Rogen and Byrne) and the buffoonish Teddy (Efron). The great chemistry of pairings in parents and frat brothers rings true as they all demonstrate vulnerability and is the stronghold of the film.
Rounding out the majority of the ensemble is Ike Barinholtz as the Radner family’s friend and co-worker. A comic relief in already very funny film his character steals a few scenes serving as a distraction device that counterbalances both neighbors extremely unethical guerilla warfare tactics and pranks with a sometimes literal over the top and off the rails performance.
If the film has any weak points it’s that it can’t really pay off all these interesting and beloved characters in a satisfying or deserving way. Even after staging a great climax there’s a sense of “now what?” in plot progression as it seems the writers have run out of ideas. It’s nice that Nicholas Stoller has taken the comparatively lean approach in regards to his previous films. Taking the easy way out here and treating the ending as if it really doesn’t really matter in this case works. As the filmmakers let themselves off the hook, they remind audiences one of the most important rules in comedy and etiquette, not wearing out your welcome is something all polite neighbours should do.
- I waited for the fireworks “show” that Efron promises in the trailer the whole movie, it did not come, as did several other gags posted in the tv spots and trailers that I’ll let you figure out.
- In all the reviews in this film it seems every critic has their favourite, one I did not mention was Jerrod Carmichael who is in about two scenes that are gold!
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