“The comedy at hand is divided into two distinct categories, where it’s either not funny at all or hysterically funny.”
If there were such a thing as an award show, where awards granted to the film trailers and advertisements of the respective year were granted, I’d be the first to vouch for Neighbors to get a nomination. While the film’s trailer is probably the last topic of discussion in the minds of people when talking about this film, the first trailer released gives off the perfect idea of the raucous fun and excitement that exists in the film. Not to mention, for once, the song in the trailer that fits like a glove when put to the events of the film (in this case, Trick Daddy and Lil Jon’s incredible crunk anthem “Let’s Go”) is actually used in the film and not just inserted in the trailer. As someone who has paid close attention to trailer music, you like have no idea how upsetting it is to see an amazing song in the trailer go unused in the film.
With that being said, aside from actually using its fitting trailer song, director, Nicholas Stoller, writer Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, and lead actors Seth Rogen and Zac Efron have a great deal to be proud of with Neighbors, a film which puts a pleasant twist on the raunchy comedy formula of the 2000’s and 2010’s. Rather than focusing on the usual – yet, admittedly successful elements – of friends gathering around, hanging out, and telling dirty jokes to another while one of them is slapped in the face with life, Neighbors focuses on a couple trying to do that, while struggling to remain both young and sane despite their neighbors being a fraternity.
The couple is Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), who have an adorable newborn daughter, who use practically all the money they have to buy a house in the suburbs. Mac and Kelly are still relatively young, but subtly feel their coolness has declined sharply over the last few years. They have a chance to be the cool neighbors once a fraternity by the name of “Delta Psi Beta” moves in next door, where numerous collegians reside and plan to throw major parties in order to affirm “Delta Psi’s” legendary namesake.
The fraternity is lead by Zac Efron’s Teddy, a self-confident young man who knows how good looking he is, and uses his charm to win over people for the greater good of himself and the fraternity. After inviting Mac and Kelly over for a night of raucous fun, the two are proud to say that they still possess some of the cool energy like their young, energetic neighbors. Teddy implores the couple not to call the police if one of their parties is ever too loud, but instead find and contact him so he can settle everything. All is well until it’s 4am the next day and Mac, Kelly, and their newborn baby haven’t slept a wink. They respond by calling the police, but once Teddy realizes they were behind it, it becomes a suburban battle for superiority.
The obvious theme and idea at hand is staying young and growing up. Teddy is obviously in a reluctant state to grow up, as he consistently wants to find ways to rebel against his “uncool” neighbors to the point where that becomes the main focus of his life over his school work. Meanwhile, Mac and Kelly would love to go along with Teddy and his gang of frat-boys, but need to attend to more mature, parental responsibilities. This idea is present throughout, but is not handled in a manner that distracts, manipulates emotionally, or distracts from the comedy at hand.
The comedy at hand is divided into two distinct categories, where it’s either not funny at all or hysterically funny. Some scenes revolve around verbal wit and uproariously funny situational humor while others center around redundant sight gags. What results is a mixed bag in terms of humor, but because the film is levied by the sharp talents of both Rogen and the underrated Efron, who has ventured away form his manufactured, squeaky-clean Disney immature subtly, it manages to succeed. Then there’s Zene Baker’s (frequent collaborator with independent filmmaker David Gordon Green) rapid-fire editing, which surprisingly works in the film’s favor, equipped with Brandon Trost’s neon cinematography.
A film like Neighbors is kind of what we needed to liven up a year where comedy hasn’t been so strong, with Bad Words being the most noteworthy, and dead-on-arrival films like Best Night Ever, Ride Along, and That Awkward Moment falling flat on their faces. This is a picture that manages to be very funny quite often but also bearing a moral that fits nicely in line with the morals of other raunchy comedies. If a comedy that features dildos, a baby putting a condom in its mouth, and several marijuana references could ever be described as a comedy posing true human honesty in age then this is the one.
NOTE: A greater force told me to research to see if any award shows dedicated to film trailers and advertisements exists. Turns out, one does, and granted Neighbors with nominations in Best Comedy Trailer, Best Comedy Poster, and Best Comedy TV Spot. Good.
Review by Lead Film Critic, Steve Pulaski
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