There’s an old saying that goes, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” True enough, but as Hollywood has taught us, you should add neighbors to the “cannot choose” list.
Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne star in “Neighbors” as Mac and Kelly, aging hipsters and parents to newborn Stella. “Just because we have a house and a baby doesn’t mean we’re old people,” says Mac.
Their quiet suburban life is uprooted when unruly frat boys led by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) move in next door. The frat has a storied history, laying claim to originating Toga Parties, Beer Pong and something called Boot and Rally.
“Make sure that if we’re too noisy, call me,” says Teddy on the eve of a big blowout. “Don’t call the cops.”
When a house party spirals out of control the couple has to call the police, thereby violating the fragile “circle of trust” between the two households. With their bond broken, petty resentments trigger a Hatfield and McCoy’s style feud between Teddy and Company and Mac and Kelly.
“Neighbors” could have simply been “Animal House” for a new generation but mixed in with the laughs—and there are a lot of laughs—is a character study of two people suffering from arrested development. Rogen and Byrne have great chemistry, and are a natural match, like a frat boys and bongs. Their story doesn’t hinge on the war with the neighbors, however, as much as it does the way they battle against growing up. Their need to be thought of as young and cool while being responsible adults, is very funny and adds a nice subtext to what could have been simply a very silly comedy.
But make no mistake. This is as raunchy and batty a farce as we’ll see this year, but the reason we laugh so hard at the inane stuff is because there is something deeper at work. The frustration, irritation and exhaustion that goes along with being a new parent is amplified, giving the outrageous comedic characters some grounding. Characters like this are frequent in reel life but Bryne and Rogen bring them into real life.
“Neighbors” is not so much a story as it is an idea played out in a series of wild gags, but good performances—watching Rose Byrne, in her natural Aussie accent, out cursing and out doing Rogen with razor sharp comic timing is one of the film’s big pleasures—and some unexpected heart make it a cut above the usual frat boy fare.