May was a pretty great month for me in terms of the movies. One of three of the films I saw that month was a comedy with two unlikely main stars. One is a famous comedic actor known for such movies like This Is The End, and the other is a famous teen icon known for such movies like High School Musical. My hopes were probably not the highest with this film, but my mother wanted to see this for Mothers’ Day. So ready or not, there I went. The result: this film is one of my favorite comedies of the year.
Neighbors has a very simple plot. A couple played by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne live quietly and contently in a nice suburban neighborhood. One day, they find out that a college fraternity is moving into the house next door. They interact with the frat’s head, played by Zac Efron, and make a good friendship…at first. One night after trying to get the frat to turn their music down, Rogen and Byrne call the police on them for disturbing the peace against Efron and Rogen’s agreement. The frat responds by terrorizing and annoying the couple as revenge, which causes a war between the two households.
Again, comedies are often not the poster-children for complex storytelling, and they don’t need to be. But as far as concepts for comedies go, this is a pretty solid plot. Now had this been just any film, the story wouldn’t extend too much outside the initial concept. But there’s something much smarter about how this story is written.
What I think is the smartest aspect of the movie is the ages of both parties. The couple, Mac and Kelly, are somewhere in their late thirties and early forties. The frat consists of college students (no duh), with the leader, Teddy, being in his early twenties. What makes this set-up so clever is that both parties are at transitional points of their lives.
You find that Mac and Kelly are on the brink and are practically at their midlife crisis- a time where trying to be young is becoming difficult and where you begin to form more adult mindsets. Meanwhile, the two leaders of the frat are at a point where they’re facing adulthood and are trying to shed adolescence. Teddy addresses it through oblivion and denial, while Pete (played by Dave Franco) addresses it in a more head-on and prepared manner.
This makes the comradery particularly between Mac and Teddy more interesting. Both characters are reaching the next phase of their lives but don’t know how to handle it. So they do what many of us do and retreat into the youngest, most familiar age bracket. They are incredibly alike in their desperate immaturity. This is what makes this comedic duo work so well and makes the story that much more fun.
Speaking of which, the film is a riot. I watched this film in a packed theater and there were many periods of nonstop laughter all throughout the film. The jokes are very well-written, hitting a nice balance between slapstick and observational comedy. If I had to think of a favorite joke, I distinctly remember a scene toward the end involving a men’s clothing store which I won’t spoil. I also thought the climax of the film was especially funny.
Of course, the humor of any film is reliant on the acting. I dropped four big names in this review: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron and Dave Franco. All of them are known to be excellent actors and they further that fact here. I was especially impressed by Byrne and Efron, both of whom you don’t immediately associate with comedy but have certainly proven themselves here. You have Seth Rogen who we all know is a freaking rockstar at modern-day comedy, and he doesn’t hold back here. Then there’s Dave Franco who makes what may be the funniest performance of his career. All the background characters are also funny in their own right. I especially love the cameo role by Lisa Kudrow.
The music choice is definitely very fitting for the events of the film. A lot of it is licensed songs that are notably popular at high school/college parties. The special effects for one joke in particular (you may already know from the trailers) are seamless and hilarious. And the film is shot very well, with some impressive lighting considering how many late night scenes there are. Overall, all typical production values are well-executed here.
This is indeed one of the best comedies of 2014. I feel the perfect demograophic for the movie are college and high school kids. Adults can totally get a kick from this movie as well. This is a tad racy, though, so have the talk with your kids sometime before the very middle of the movie.
Other than that implicit exception, you should definitely catch the film whenever you get a chance. It’s a safe rental, but don’t be afraid to go for the DVD if that’s what’s available to you. You’re going to need it, trust me.
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