Neighbors may appear from the outside to be just another in a long line of stale college-set movies where things spin out of control and we fall over laughing. Well, that last part is true. But the former aspect of that statement could not be further from what director Nicholas Stoller has given audiences.
Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are Mac and Kelly Radner. They are married and living an idyllic life in their new suburban home with their baby. That is, until Zac Efron and his band of fraternity brothers move in next door.
At first, they decide to be cool. Armed with their baby monitor in hand, they head over and share in the craziness of the fraternity’s first party in their new house. They figure if they appear to be down with the revelry, they can politely ask them to keep it down the rest of the semester. Oh, how wrong they are.
We don’t want to give away too much of the hilarity that is the back and forth battle between these two houses -- beyond of course what you’ve seen in the Neighbors trailer. But, what sets Stoller’s film apart from other mindless college comedies is that there is a heart and mind behind the film that is filled to the brim with laughs, but also a levity that keenly knows the human condition.
Byrne and Rogen have a right to want the volume and parties to be kept to a minimum. Anyone who has gotten a baby to sleep knows the fine line that is keeping them asleep. But, Stoller (from a script by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien) also paints a picture that both sides of this turf war have issues that are textbook, as frat boy/psych minor Dave Franco says, transference.
Efron is worried about what's next. He’s afraid, as graduation comes closer, that he has no plan for the future and he’s threatened by his neighbors who seem to have it all together. Meanwhile, Rogen and Byrne are delighted with their blissful life with baby, but truly miss their days of mindless revelry.
See, Neighbors has hilarity, heart and some serious thought behind it. Don’t get us wrong, there are plenty of fall-out-of-your-seat laughing moments. But just as Stoller achieved with his last directorial effort -- which you can see when you watch Get Him to the Greek online (which he also wrote) -- there are lessons to be learned that give what could be a mindless and fun comedy some serious weight.
Rogen is his usual stellar self and takes his humor up a notch in the fight with Efron, and also in his role as father and husband. And Efron is showing us that he is truly growing as an actor and clearly has the best post-High School Musical career of any of those alumni. Many have said that he’s the next Tom Cruise. I would beg to differ. He’s so much more.
But in the end, our Neighbors review feels that this is Byrne’s movie to shine. She steals scenes left and right from comic actors (like Rogen, Franco and even Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who are known for this genre. Byrne plays the mama bear that will go to the ends of the earth to protect her baby girl. And she even has some serious fun along the way as well -- and so do we.