Neighbors could’ve been a contender
The best part of Neighbors? That’s easy. Watching the trailer show all of the film’s best moments. Not nearly as amusing is sitting through the entire film wondering when an unseen bit will leave you doubling over in your seat with laughter. Spoiler: it won’t.
For a film about a group of hard-partying frat boys, Neighbors really isn’t all that enjoyable, let alone fun. I’m not quite sure where the film lost me exactly, but I’m thinking it was somewhere around the latex penis mold-making and the lactating mother scene.
When stumped over a decent punch line, the filmmakers always opt to make the scene a little raunchier as if grossing out the audience will make them so uncomfortable they’ll start cracking up. Cracking? Yes. With laughter? Maybe not.
Mac (This is the End’s Seth Rogen still playing the same character he established in 2007’s Knocked Up) and Kelly (the versatile Rose Byrne, Insidious: Chapter 2) are new parents whose quiet lifestyle is threatened by the arrival of a fraternity, which moves in next door.
Terrified that they’ll never get their daughter to sleep due to incessant parties, Mac and Kelly try to be the “cool” next-door neighbors and politely ask if they can keep the noise down. Frat president Teddy (Zac Efron, That Awkward Moment) and VP Pete (Dave Franco, Now You See Me) say all the right things, but it doesn’t take long for the frat house to be party central, prompting an ever-escalating battle for control of the neighborhood.
The premise isn’t bad and actually has a lot of potential, but like remedial students, debuting screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien get stuck on cheap and strictly sleazy jokes that rely more on sight gags than any clever lines.
There’s an intriguing subplot they neglect that seems far more promising of Mac and Kelly desperately trying to cling to their former partying days and accepting their new responsibilities as parents. But instead of developing that more, Cohen and O’Brien take a less interesting approach like the frat placing airbags throughout Mac and Kelly’s house. On the plus side there’s no projectile vomiting, but then again, we do see far too much naked Rogen, so let’s call it a draw.
The rest of the neighborhood is easily swayed by a few token efforts of community service, but it requires serious suspension of disbelief that no one else on the block minds being kept awake by the constant partying. Again, it’s another missed opportunity to have Mac and Kelly lead the panicked neighborhood instead of being portrayed as the only sensible people on the block.
Director Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek) wants to have it both ways with the film where the frat guys are mildly sympathetic and aren’t the obnoxious jerks they really are while Mac and Kelly are too silly to root for without some reservation.
The film would be immensely more entertaining if Stoller picked a side and stuck to that perspective instead of giving equal time to both groups. Telling the film from the frat side would likely have been more fun as Efron, Franco and fellow bros Garf (Jerrod Carmichael) and Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kick-Ass 2) have great chemistry and are more entertaining than the passive-aggressive approach of Mac and Kelly, whose antics would be far more annoying if Byrne wasn’t saving every scene. Byrne is just as fantastic here as she was in Get Him to the Greek even if her chemistry with Rogen isn’t the greatest.
There’s a few chuckles here, but with a script that strove for more than satisfying the lowest common denominator demographic, Neighbors could have been an all-time classic instead of simply being another film happy to settle for less and delivering just as much for the audience.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Photo Credit: Glen Wilson/Universal Studios