By Gary Murray
Starring Seth Rogan, Zac Efron and Rose Byrne
Written by Andrew J. Cohen & Brendan O’Brien
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Running time 96 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Matinee
First off, Neighbors is not a re-make of the Thomas Berger novel that became a John Belushi/Dan Akroyd cult flick in 1981. Watching the trailer, one would expect this to be a modern re-make of Revenge of the Nerds. Again-nope. This is a battle royal between a nuclear family and a fraternal family.
This version of Neighbors stars Seth Rogan as Mac. He is married to Kelly (Rose Byrne) and they have an adorable little girl Stella (Elise and Zoey Vargas). They are taking their first steps into adulthood with a house in the neighborhood. But they are still trying to be cool young people, attempting to take Stella to a rave.
Mac has a drone job with his buddy and ex-brother in law Billy (Ike Barinholtz). The two have no problem taking on a blunt during work hours. Again, they are trying to be cool while moving headlong in adulthood.
Kelly and Mac take on suburbia ironically. Soon their world is shattered when the new neighbors move in. It is a fraternity Delta Psi. Led by Teddy (Zac Efron) the group of men has been recently been pushed off-campus. They are hard partying, drinking and doing drugs every night. Kelly and Mac are worried that the ruckus will wake Stella, so they go over and suggest that the frat keep the party level volume down.
Since Mac and Kelly want to be good neighbors, they decide to join the party. After a night of heavy drinking and mushrooms, Mac and Teddy seem to have bonded and are friends. The problem is the next night, the party roars up again. They have Robert DeNiro costume parties, fueled with alcohol. One begins to wonder if these guys ever do any studying.
Teddy has a goal his senior year. He claims that the Deltas invented the toga party, beer pong and boot & rally. Teddy claims that they need to have a party that will put them on the wall of honor, making them immortal. What is really going on is Teddy is slowly coming to realize that his life is about to change in ways he is not ready to accept. Teddy is feeling that he will be in a lost in a world beyond his control.
Mac and Teddy made a pact that if the frat were too loud, Mac would contact Teddy and not call the police. After 10 calls in a night, Mac gives up and contacts the authorities. This starts a rift between the two men. What starts with small pranks eventually escalates to some serious destruction. There is a dark reality between these two men as they attack one another.
The film builds to a giant confrontation as the frat tries to top every other party that has been thrown. It is a tit-for-tat fight where there are no true winners.
I have always been a fan of Zac Efron. He is an under-rated teen heartthrob who is trying to break into more mainstream roles. Zac was good in Parkland and great in both Hairspray and Me and Orson Wells. While this could be considered a set-back in his career to be taken as a serious actor, he does find moments to show he is more of a lost soul with not future. It eventually becomes a much more complicated performance with something more than a one dimensional character.
Seth Rogan has gone from a guy with a few lines in funny flicks to a starring role/leading man in comedies. He has eventually become a comedic force with Knocked-up and This is the End. While this role will not lose him any fans, it is much of the same Rogan shtick. There is not that much that is different or challenging in the role.
The biggest surprise is how Rose Byrne was on screen. The actress delivers comic punch after comic punch, going toe-to-toe with the more experienced comedic forces in the film. It is hard to believe she and Seth Rogan would be a couple.
Director Nicholas Stoller is the man behind Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. This film does not depart too much from those films. It has a mix of raunchy with some sweetness, loads of drug humor with a sprinkle of sentimental pathos. It flows up and down with a bit too many dips and not so much laughs. All the big comedic moments are in the trailer.
Neighbors is less than the sum of its parts, a simple comedy with adult overtones. It is not meant for children and wins the R rating with way too many scenes of drug use. At times one begins to wonder if this were not a remake of Up in Smoke, the Cheech and Chong flick.