Monday, May 12, 2014


When their new neighbor moves in, the head of a rowdy fraternity played by Zac Efron, Seth Rogen's character says he looks like someone a gay man created in a lab. That's probably the most spot-on way Efron's sexual appeal has ever been described. Saying the young actor is the least funny thing on the screen is definitely no knock on him, due to the fact alone of him being surrounded by such comedic talent. He (and his body) get the job done just fine and actually adds a layer of curious energy to Nicholas Stoller's uproarious and raunchy "Neighbors."

Efron's best moments are with fraternity cohort played by Dave Franco, whose scenes together take the homoerotic undertones of fraternities to hilarious new heights. Seth Rogen finds his comedic match in Rose Byrne, who busts loose with her natural Aussie accent and delivers perfect deadpan timing. The cast of comedians that flow in and out of frame is dizzying, especially Ike Barinholtz of "The Mindy Project" and the welcome return of Lisa Kudrow, who basically reprises her guidance counselor from "Easy A."

When the fraternity moves in next door, Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) at first try to make nice with the guys, offering them weed but also trying to squeak in the phrase "keep it down." It doesn't work, and they're left being kept up until 4 a.m. tending to their adorable newborn who they can't get to sleep. When they make the mistake of calling the cops on the frat, Teddy (Efron) calls for an all-out war. The movie is loosely structured, freewheeling in its design and takes great creative liberties for a standard studio comedy. The rest of the script is us sitting back to watch as the attacks back and forth from family to frat ramp up in extravagance and absurdity. The party set pieces do every other college party movie proud and rave and flow with visual and aural excitement.

Among the gross-out sight gags, astonishing physical humor and plethora of jokes dedicated to one very specific body part, "Neighbors" packs in its biggest surprise in coming out as nonchalantly insightful about its characters. Efron, most notably, brings a dark soul to his fraternity leader, so that when the final takedown between him and Rogen happens, it becomes funnier because the stakes feel real. As Mac and Kelly see their lives turn a corner, the script rings true about what it means to earn responsibility, grow older and how aging doesn't always come exclusively with acting your age. The film is a big win for newcomer screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, and even with "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Get Him to the Greek" and "The Five-Year Engagement" under his belt, this is probably Stoller's funniest film to date.

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