Movie Review: Neighbors

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Stars: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Elise & Zoey Vargas

Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout, Running time 96 minutes minutes, Comedy

Compare to: Neighborhood Watch (2012), We’re the Millers (2013)

It’s good to know that not every Comedy that comes out has to be like The Hangover movies; dumb, raunchy, and focused solely on the glorification of the like.

And though Neighbors is raunchy, it’s also not nearly as stupid as so many movies that think characters acting like idiots is inherently funny. Some might say Neighbors is even intelligent and I wouldn’t argue, but intelligence can have it’s downfalls in such a genre as well.

Mac and Kelly are too old to be young and too young to be old. With a newborn baby, the two are adjusting to the new home they’ve settled into. And while adulthood itself has its ups and downs, things becomes more difficult when a rambunctious macho fraternity moves in next door and refuses to play nice, setting off a neighborhood war between the two houses.

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Seth Rogen seems to have decided to never play a characters that isn’t a more awkward version of himself. While in reality, he’s doubtfully less restrained, his onscreen persona will forever be Rogen himself, just in uncomfortable situations that feature lots of stammering. If you don’t like Rogen, you’ll have the same problems with him here.

But the strength of Neighbors is found in director Nicholas Stoller’s attention to making sure the characters retain their humanity throughout the absurdity. It’s not enough for the characters to go through comical hell and back, but you’ve also got to care; something most comedies don’t quite understand, overloading us with extrasensory gags that leave the personality in the backseat.

 

Which isn’t to say that much of the humor leaves out the physical. A fight between leads Rogen and Efron is especially funny, leaving you to wonder whose character is more of a goon; the jock or the (responsible) stoner.

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And though humanity is what keeps the movie interesting, it’s also something of a drawback. Many of the scenes left me cringing at the awkwardness or humility a character experiences, with only a few audience members laughing at times. When you care about the characters like you know them, it’s tough to keep laughing at a Hatfield & McCoy situation between neighbors and you really just want it to end.

Stoller excels in allowing his characters to reach the depths of their personality in any Comedies he undertakes. Namely, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Five Year Engagement, and Get Him to the Greek. Watchable films, yes, but the Comedy is lost in the pity you feel for his characters whose all-too-human side comes out and keeps you from really enjoying yourself.

While I wouldn’t bother offering improvements in a review, I can’t help but think I would’ve had more fun if Efron and his frat had just been cartoonish bullies rather than more-true-to-life meat heads.

Planning the seige.

Planning the seige.

Efron’s jerky frat-boy becomes a guy who’s afraid of growing up and being too dim witted to figure out what he wants for his life while his right hand man (played by Franco) mentions being a product of divorce in more than one scene which actually does play a part in the story.

Enough of this and you’ve got just enough drama to keep you from letting yourself jump in and delight in the madness.

Positives- Rose Byrne’s performance and a couple particularly funny scenes with Jerrod Carmichael, features characters with more depth which is unique to comedies with this brand of humor.

Negatives- The seriousness overtakes all at times, The message sent out seems to be “Be young and pointless or responsible and boring- what’s it gonna be?”

Grade: B-

Sidenote: There’s a quick mid-credits sequence that’s kinda funny if you’re interested.

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