At one point in “Neighbors”, the antagonists attempt to create marital aids from their own private parts using plaster molds. Yes, a group of college boys stand there with plaster on their crotches.
And it is hysterical.
“Neighbors” has a chance to be a massive box office success. This is the kind of comedy, like “Bridesmaids” or “The Hangover”, that should appeal to huge audiences of all ages. Of course, those audiences will have to tolerate nonstop drug jokes, pop culture references, and many, many curse words.
The premise is quite simple. Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) have recently bought their first home. Other than being unable to have sex due to the presence of their newborn, Stella, and staying home at night while their friends are out on the town, their life is seemingly perfect and content.
Then, Delta Psi Beta moves in next door. They are led by Teddy (Zac Efron), a crazed, borderline-psychopath inside a male model’s body, and Pete (Dave Franco), a sugary sweet intellectual who almost has the well-being of others at top of mind. Again, almost.
Mac and Kelly, knowing the inevitable insanity that is now a mere five feet away, attempt to head it all off at the pass and introduce themselves to their new neighbors. In an effort to seem cool, they clumsily say things like “trill” and offer a joint as a peace offering.
The first night goes great, as Mac and Kelly knock on the door, asking the fraternity to turn down their music. Teddy, knowing full well that Mac and Kelly pose a threat to Delta Psi’s partying existence, invites them in.
Every single second is hilarity. Teddy is the life of the party and there is no doubt that Mac also was at one point, albeit 12 years prior. Mac has to be restrained from eating more than his already ingested handful of magic mushrooms, while Kelly dances and does shots with girls, all while checking her phone’s baby monitor.
The next morning, Teddy comes to an agreement with Mac and Kelly: if it’s ever too loud, call him and not the police.
The very next night, an exhausted Mac and Kelly can’t handle another massive party and after several calls to Teddy, they cave and call the police. This is a tremendous breach of trust and Teddy and Pete, in an act of revenge, begin tormenting their neighbors.
From that point on, every moment of “Neighbors” consists of elaborate attacks and all of them score high on the laugh out loud scale. They treat it like warfare, as both sides at different moments claim their enemy “has the upper hand”.
This all works because the story by Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien doesn’t try to advance a plot or infuse any massive life lessons. Every scene is written and directed to comedic perfection by Nicholas Stoller, who has quickly become a highly skilled comedy director.
“Neighbors” is a character movie and the main roles need actors to pull something like this off. Otherwise, the movie would quickly become an exercise in annoyance.
Rogen, Byrne, Efron, and Franco are perfect. Rogen is no stranger to these types of comedies, but he plays Mac against type. He never acts like a suburban dad buffoon, clueless and stupid. He’s confident and is never condescending to the part he’s playing, which is literally thousands upon thousands of actual dads all over the country.
Rose Byrne steals “Neighbors”. Again, the genius of the script and acting avoids any stereotypes. She isn’t the screechy, whiny stay at home mom, which is something a lesser comedy would have comfortably asked her to do. Instead, she is the almost silent evil genius, getting her husband to jump into elaborate schemes to get these crazed boys out of their lives.
Also, Byrne speaks in her actual Australian accent. This only adds to the hilarity because when she curses, it’s funny.
The revelation of “Neighbors” is Zac Efron. There can’t be many people that would ever have expected him to be this fantastic. He is so good as Teddy that it is borderline shocking. There have been some movies in which he’s tried to ditch his Disney Channel past, but this performance washes it all away.
Efron is brilliant. He is a shirtless deliverer of hedonism and he revels in it. Getting an education is not even a blip on his radar screen and all he wants are drugs, booze, and girls. He is the Hunter S. Thompson of fraternity guys, always wanting more and more and pushing the envelope with each party.
“Neighbors” never lets up. It will easily be on the short list of 2014’s best comedies. It actually squeezes in some life lessons as well, without bogging down and getting sappy.
If there is one thing to take away from “Neighbors”, it’s that there is a time and place in all our lives for partying and that once that time is over, it’s okay to be married and have kids and there isn’t anything mundane about that existence at all.
Well, there is one more thing to learn from “Neighbors”: don’t accidentally break your wife’s breast milk pump. The resulting events, while brilliantly funny, will be quite messy.