Movie Review - Neighbors

Seth Rogen is slubby and nice. Zac Efron is chiseled and a jerk. They play characters who live next door to each other and become rivals. Efron's fraternity president character Teddy can't stop throwing loud parties all night long, and Rogen's boring office worker and new-found dad character Mac wants to be able to sleep peacefully through the night with his wife Kelly, played by Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids and Insidious). Teddy plots to throw more, louder and crazier parties, while Mac plots to dissolve the fraternity by getting them in trouble with the university or police, or discourging them in other ways.

Written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, the movie establishes how Mac and Kelly are a little fatigued from having a newborn daughter and slightly bored with their domestic lives. The idea is developed that the married couple get a thrill over plotting against the fraternity because it gives them something to do. However, the movie doesn't develop Teddy or any of the frat brothers with the exception of Pete, played by Dave Franco (21 Jump Street and Charlie St. Cloud).

The only thing we get about Teddy is that he's sexy, he's dumb and he only exists to party. We don't get anything else that helps to fill out the world that gave rise to someone like Teddy. This is perhaps purposeful, but, by the end there's no care or concern for Teddy or what happens to him.

The script vacillates back-and-forth between what Teddy is supposed to be. He goes from hard-core party animal to sensitive, frat brother with not much in between. You'd never know he was a college student at all, if not for where he is, so there's nothing to make us think Teddy is anything other than superficial. Fraternities don't just throw parties. They help their members in school and in careers afterward. They engage in activities that don't just involve their genitalia, but you'd never get that here. There's nothing more to Teddy beyond his pecs, his abs and his penis.

Fraternities are not just about networking. They're also about family, as Teddy even says. They're about the family you make. For Teddy then to be so offended by this one family needed a beat, which isn't here, to make it feel real. There is an inciting incident, the cops being called. Yet, nothing happens to the fraternity. In fact, everything goes Teddy's way for the most part, so his vindictiveness against Mac needed another or an additional bridge again to make it feel real.

Even without any depth to Teddy's character, this movie still rather fails. It becomes about the war between Mac and Teddy. Yet, as a war, this film feels pretty tame. Yes, there's escalation, but it never gets as crazy or exciting as it could have. The worst on Teddy's side is a pratfall involving airbags. It's basically a stupid prank. The worst act on Mac's side is an attempt to use sex and betrayal to disrupt the fraternity. It sets up for Teddy to turn villainous and possibly vicious, but the movie never pushes him that far.

Director Nicholas Stoller does what he can but Rogen and Efron are not good actors. Ironically, Seth Rogen is the least funny of everyone here. It might just be because I'm over the whole Rogen schtick. Strangely, Rogen calls out Kevin James who in his most recent film Here Comes the Boom (2012) changed his image. He lost weight and became increasingly muscular.

Rogen attempts to change his image here, or rather he seems to complete the trajectory that he started in Knocked Up (2007). It's Rogen accepting the reality of being a husband and father, a reality that rejects just getting stoned and trying to get laid. Except here, instead of resisting the future and maintaining the arrested development-syndrome that has been common in many comedies out of the Judd Apatow camp, Rogen's character has to literally and figuratively fight the past, or at least the manifestation of what he thought his past was, embodied by Efron.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.


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