Monday, May 12, 2014

Review 265: "Neighbors"

Family vs. Frat.

Bad Neighbours

      Neighbors is a 2014 comedy that achieved some strong success at the box office this past weekend. The film was directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and was written by newcomers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien. The film follows Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne), a married couple with a newborn baby that have recently put all their money into a new house. However, the are shocked to learn that just next-door, a fraternity has moved in. Lead by fraternity presidents Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), the Radners struggle with the frats loud antics, leading to an all out prank war when the Randers call the police in the frat. With the help of friends Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) and Paula (Carla Gallo), the Radners attempt to shut the fraternity down and win back their peace and quiet. Yeah, that'll go well...

It's like he's sculpted from marble. Oh, and Zac Efron's there too...
Family Comedy

      Neighbors is one of the worst types of movies to talk about. Not only is it a comedy, but Neighbors is a pretty damn good comedy. It's often downright hilarious, but that's the problem. I'd ruin the movie if I told why it was funny, which essentially would just be giving you the jokes. Rest assured, most of Neighbors is funny. The trailers don't give away all the funny parts, a lot of the jokes in the trailers are bigger than they appear and the movie never does go too far and end up flat out gross or crass. That said, the humor isn't entirely evenly spread. The first half-hour, before the pranks begin, was, for me at least, largely laugh-free and dragged on quite a bit, though the movie more than makes up for it by the time the credits role. And a lot of the humor's success can be laid at the actor's feet. Yes, Seth Rogen and Dave Franco are both very funny, but you'd expect them to be. Here, the surprises are Bryne and Efron. Byrne gets some great comedy in a role that could have easily been nothing more than a nagging wife and she becomes, in some ways, more into the prank war than rogen. But Efron really takes home the breakout hit. He's a natural at this already and will most likely be turning up a lot in the future.

For Realzies

      One of the more surprising parts of Neighbors is that it's actual does often get serious. With a story that needed very little justification, Neighbors does a good job diving deeper than most comedies would. Efron and the frat are portrayed as more that just partiers, with Efron full-well knowing that his best years may already be behind him. Plus, the film makes his seem like a genuinely nice guy, where the could have easily gone for straight villain. Likewise, the Radners' antics are far more grey than it would seem and in some way are shown to be worse than the frat. On top of that, the film does try for some hold on reality. In the heavily marketed air bag gags, the film, while also playing the prank for laughs, marks it as a turning point and as a genuinely dangerous act, something surprising for a movie like this. And that realism helps keep the movie grounded. It never goers too extreme and thankfully, it helps to keep the humor consistent throughout.

Is that one of Byrne's horror movies? Cause it looks like one.
The Verdict

      There's not too much to say one this one. Neighbors is an honestly hilarious movie that takes a great script and simple premise and combines them it a fantastic cast. Efron makes a star-making turn here and the rest of the cast follows suit. The film's added attempts at keeping the movie grounded also help in making this film more than just a crude comedy. Outside of a weak first act, Neighbors is sure to keep you up at night. Laughing that is! ...I hate myself sometimes. Neighbors gets 5 stars out of 6.

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