Due to a horrible Australian soap opera it was decided that the actual name of this movie, Neighbors, would need to be changed to “Bad Neighbours” here in the UK so us brainless and dumbfounded movie goers wouldn’t be expecting Ramsay Street’s gang of dramatic “smell the fart” actors to appear on the big screen. So, with the name-confusion out of the way, let’s get in to this review shall we?
Neighbors (spelled differently here, also, by the way) is directed by Nicholas Stoller, the guy who brought us Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek and The Five Year Engagement, brings us a film that feels very much in the same vein as his other comedy outings, it feels like one of those Judd Apatow-produced comedies that focus on the adult and middle aged characters as much as they do the teenage crowd. Seth Rogen (This is the End, Pineapple Express) and Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) are husband and wife, Mac and Kelly, and along with their new baby, Stella, are happy raising their child in a nice quiet suburban neighbourhood, though they are still missing their recently-departed days of parties, booze and lack of responsibilities. After the house beside theirs goes on the market their quiet suburbia quickly becomes frat-house-Hell when a male fraternity moves in next door.
Zac Effron (17 Again, High School Musical) is the president of the fraternity, Teddy, a handsome and charming character in the early stages of the film. Seeing that the frat has moved in next to them, Mac and Kelly create a plan to welcome them to the neighbourhood while immediately making it clear that they need to be respectful and keep their noise down. Easy, right? Mac and Kelly approach Teddy, give him a housewarming gift of a joint, and welcome him and his brothers to the area. They then ask him to keep the noise down, and leave, all of them smiling. Dave Franco, brother of James, plays Teddy’s vice-president, Pete, and is also smiling as the new neighbours walk away. The fraternity decide it would be a good idea to invite Mac and Kelly inside for a tour and a drink in order to get “on good terms” with them and in doing so prevent any future complaints and problems. This results in Mac and Kelly partying hard and happily leaving their new college student friends with an unspoken agreement to get along. All is well between the neighbours. Or is it?
When further parties get out of hand and keep them awake through the night, Mac and Kelly call the police to put the problem to bed, but when Teddy finds out that his new neighbour friends “ratted him out” it becomes obvious that living in harmony is just not going to happen.
Neighbors is the type of film you watch when you are in the mood for a laugh and an easy going time, it isn’t deep, it isn’t going to teach you anything, and it isn’t going to move you, but it is funny, entertaining and the cast play their parts well. I’ve read plenty of bad reviews for this movie but really I just think it’s subjective. I knew what I was getting myself into when I walked into a movie about neighbours at war with Seth Rogen at the helm, and I got precisely that, and I enjoyed my time with it.
Effron, now suddenly playing parts that guys like Rogen were playing not so long ago, is fun as the confident frat president. His comedic timing is good and it is nice to see him in a more adult (not adult: sophisticated) role from what he has previously done. Rogen is, well, Rogen, and people who pay to see him will be happy with what he does in the film. He is the everyman character that attracted audiences to guys like him, Jonah Hill and Jason Segal originally, and is both likeable and ridiculous as the not-so-grown up who is seeking revenge on the college kids next door. Rose Byrne offers a needed femininity to the film, but it’s her scenes where she equally as plotting and angry as Rogens’ Mac that truly shine and show how good a comedy actress she is. Side characters such as Ike Barinholtz’s Jimmy and Carla Gallo’s Paula add a little extra to the film too and provide some laughs along the way.
The film isn’t perfect, far from it, and it can seem a little too improvised and unclear on occasions, plus the insisting on many of today’s comedy films to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing, showing and laughing about penises can get old, fast, and makes me wonder just who really finds dick jokes funny anymore. It’s time that writer’s spent a little extra time creating alternatives to this and providing some genuinely funny moments. I was also a little surprised by the film’s ability to, at times, make every single character appear unlikable. Not a good idea in a film that is forcing its audience to choose a side.
Still, the gags provide plenty of laughs and when it works it does what it is supposed to do. Rogen and Byrne have a good chemistry and I would like to see them together in future comedies, I think they work well as an on-screen couple (ala: Leslie Mann & Paul Rudd). Effron does a good job as the cocky “frat bro” who puts his house above his education, and Dave Franco is decent as his “number two”. It is a fun summer comedy that will please people who just want a quick laugh and an enjoyable story, but it isn’t going to do anything special or make any lists of classic comedies. As long as you expect the expected then all will be fine. Just watch out for the airbags.