Neighbors Review [SXSW 2014]
Based on the merits of being a “How To” guide for aspiring parents, Neighbors is a one star movie about two adults selfishly putting their own insecurities before the well-being of their newborn baby. We’re talking some gratuitously debaucherous middle-aged partying including magic mushrooms, sword fighting, shot ripping, and every other fraternal stereotype possible. Wildly inappropriate, of course, but with Nicholas Stoller’s outlandish direction, Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien watch their screenplay turn into a riotous Greek life comedy that’ll make you question every responsible decision you made throughout your college career. Stoller himself admitted that only one member of his production team actually lived a fraternity life in college, so you can imagine the generalizations and stereotypes blown wildly out of proportion, but it’s all in the name of comedy – and the most epic rager that frat life could possibly imagine.
Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) are new parents enjoying their more modest suburban lifestyle, embracing early nights and child care instead of raves and late night diner trips. Their life is your simple blue-collar affair, and their neighborhood equatable to Anywhere, USA – until a fraternity moves in next door. Led by President Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) and his Vice President Pete (Dave Franco), this is your Animal House style fraternity with the dial cranked even higher, as it’s Teddy’s mission to earn his rightful place on the frat’s Hall of Fame board, along with the supposed inventors of the Toga Party and every college kid’s best friend, the Boot and Rally. This doesn’t bode well for the Radner’s humble lifestyle, so they decide to fight back. Can Mac and Kelly party hard enough to infiltrate the frat and get them evicted? If there’s one brotherhood you should avoid starting a war with, it’s an immature, vengeful frat – something that the Radners are about to find out.
Graduating from High School Musical heartthrob to full-blown college douche, Zac Efron was meant to play the testosterone-charged frat superhero Teddy Sanders. Efron has never been funnier, and getting away from his “good guy” persona creates a completely embellished caricature that’s entirely too much fun to ignore, pairing nicely with his second-in-command played by Dave Franco – another young actor who pops his collar and leaves us in stitches. The chemistry between these two is highlighted by a scene I can only dream was improvised on set, recording Teddy and Pete’s genius reinventions of the phrase “bros before hos” – only to have Pete heartbroken later when Teddy doesn’t acknowledge the “bropology” that took place, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE IT RHYMED! Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Jerrod Carmichael round out our alpha dogs, one a certifiable porn star and the other a hopeless pothead, but it’s Teddy and Pete who ultimately win us over through wicked epicness – that’s what the kids say these days, right?
As for Rogen and Byrne – where do I start? Again, for any aspiring parents at home, you’ll have to understand the fact that Neighbors is meant to be nothing but drunken fun, and it succeeds mightily. The Radners leave their child at home for an entire night full of fraternity partying, and get sufficiently intoxicated, but everything is alright because Rose has her baby monitor. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME – but please witness the utter hilarity that our bored couple creates.
Neighbors is essentially pornography for adults who fantasize about reliving their glory years, now unable to slug Jager and take two story bong rips, as those viewers can live vicariously through Rogen and Byrne – a comedic dream couple. Whether it’s Rogen dancing his ass off while wearing a goofy gansta’ hat or Byrne turning from innocent housewife into manipulative female she-demon, these two talents riff off one another with perfect comedic ease, again aiding Stoller’s admittedly overplayed mentality. Oh, and Byrne – please stick to only horror and comedy from here on out. Please?!
As for the party-hearty shenanigans throughout Neighbors, Stoller and company create every college boy’s fantasy while also somehow addressing fears that come along with leaving college – albeit nothing but surface recognition. You’re here to laugh, and watching Rogen attempt to keep up with Efron delivers “first pot brownie” hilarity. Blacklights, kegs, drugs, sorority girls, bro bonding, tank tops, Robert De Niro themed parties – Neighbors goes for broke and succeeds in creating one of the funniest fraternal comedies since Animal House – the Holy Grail of college humor. Stoller’s complete disregard for reality is his greatest weapon, subduing audiences with masculine hugs and spot on sight gags that again live in some fantasy world where airbags can hide in chairs, launching unknowing victims into crumbly tile ceilings. Nothing will make you miss college more until you realize your college life was nothing like Teddy’s – and then you’ll just want to pull an Old School.
Neighbors is like walking into a frat party and witnessing a game of beer pong between Willie Nelson, Kenny Powers, and the Coors Light commercial twins – it’s probably just a hallucinogenic tease brought on by some “party favors” you popped earlier, but for the time being, it’s nothing but pure, entertaining bliss. Attacking “bro” culture with the energy of a ‘roided out grizzly bear, Stoller pushes comedy farther than he’s ever attempted, an easy achievement with such a star-studded comedic cast. Efron is a pastel plastered revelation, and has honestly never been funnier – the same goes for Byrne, minus the abs and plus a maternal surprise. Sure, there’s a paper-thin story that doesn’t really strike the serious notes of maturing, growing older, and accepting a more “normal” life – but with non-stop laughs and gut-busting highlights, Neighbors is a death cup victory on Team Stoller’s first pong shots.
Come for the beer pong, stay for the blacklight dance party, and enjoy every minute of this ridiculous fraternity comedy featuring hilariously "broish" performances that embrace every enjoyable stereotype.