Neighbors is a typical comedy premise looked at through a new lens. The idea of a “frat” comedy has been around since the days of Animal House. Usually the fraternity has an enemy to their house, and that enemy is usually a neighbor unwilling to put up with the noise pollution from the Frat. Neighbors however shifts the paradigm by having the movie for the most part take place from the perspective of the “evil old fogey neighbors” who in this movie are played by Rose Bryne, and Seth Rogen. They play the role of new parents who are slowly attempting to adjust to their less exciting life.
The film as a whole has some good comedic bits, unfortunately a lot of the jokes fall flat. The fratboy humor may be up to some people’s standards but to me the whole shtick is overused and tired. Even though the film is knowingly poking fun at the tropes used in older films of the party genre they don’t do enough things different in order to make it worthwhile. Zack Efron sells his role just fine, however his relationship with Dave Franco is more annoying than it is effectively comedic. There’s not really a lot of depth to the characters as they are almost entirely surface level, which is not a surprise but they could have done more.
The rest of the characters are a lot more enjoyable and their struggle is more relateable. Seth Rogen is great as his usual dopey self, but this time he is trying to cope with having some real responsibilities. Rose Bryne shows off some surprisingly good comedic chops in this film which is a nice change from her usual more dramatic roles. Even their baby is funny, as it really manages to smile at the right moments, and really sells that the goofiness is really happening. The greatest parts of the film are the bit actors. Lisa Kudrow is outstanding as the oddly supportive Dean of the college, and Hannibal Buress has an awesome small role in the film as a police officer. Where the frat boys make the film drag on, the rest of the actors really manage to bring the laughs.
Plot-wise the film is nothing too spectacular, and all of the big set pieces are pretty run of the mill. You can figure out how the film will end by the time you reach the halfway point. The movie tropes are all still very prevalent throughout the films running time. The film appears to want to be a parody movie, but it just doesn’t fully commit to the idea. Certainly goofy things happen, but it really doesn’t have anything interesting to say about the frat genre.
Overall if you are looking for a simple film that offers a few good chuckles, and never forces you to use to much of your brain then Neighbors is a pretty solid bet. However if you are looking for an insightful look at the predilections of the Frat Boy mentality look elsewhere.
Watch the film and decide for yourself who the ultimate Neighbor is, NEIGHBORS debuts tonight at 8:00pm on HBO.