[Screen It]

"NEIGHBORS"
(2014) (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A married couple with a newborn must contend with a college fraternity moving in next door.
PLOT:
Mac (SETH ROGEN) and Kelly Radner (ROSE BYRNE) are new parents who miss their former hard-partying ways that are now an afterthought due to the presence of their baby girl, Stella. But at least they're not like their friends, Jimmy (IKE BARINHOLTZ) -- who works with Mac -- and Paula (CARLA GALLO) whose marriage is over. While their party days might be done, they live in a good neighborhood and are looking forward to meeting whoever might move in next door. To their shock, that turns out to be the Delta Si fraternity from the nearby college. Wanting to keep things under control, but also desirous of returning, if briefly, to their former lifestyle, they spend an evening partying with frat president Teddy Sanders (ZAC EFRON), his right-hand man Pete (DAVE FRANCO), and other frat members including Scoonie (CHRISTOPHER MINTZ-PLASSE) and Garfield (JERROD CARMICHAEL) among others. That ends with Teddy making Mac promise to call him first before calling the police should things ever get too loud or out of hand. But when that happens and they get no response from those next door, Mac and Kelly do indeed call the police, an act that raises the ire of Teddy who's determined to create a legendary frat party that will rival that of his predecessors.

It's not long before Teddy and his friends start pulling pranks and more on the couple. Getting no help from Dean Carol Gladstone (LISA KUDROW), Mac and Kelly decide to take matters into their own hands, a decision that only escalates the tension between the neighbors.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
There goes the neighborhood. That's the mantra of usually close-minded people who don't like the site of newcomers -- be they new owners or renters -- who've arrived within close proximity to where they live. It's usually the result of not wanting people dissimilar to them, be that based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, political affiliation or what have you.

Granted, such neighborhood folk might have reason for concern if neo-Nazis are moving in or if high-target mobsters under the witness protection program suddenly show up. Then again, those might not be as bad as if an entire fraternity, wild parties and all, suddenly took up residence next door. While I don't know if that's even allowed in reality, it's the catalyst for all sorts of outlandish shenanigans, bad behavior and an inner-generational battle of wills in the simply titled comedy, "Neighbors."

As directed by Nicholas Stoller from a script by Andrew Jay Cohen & Brendan O'Brien, the film definitely isn't for kids (it earns its R rating with ease and then some) or for easily offended adults as evidenced by the opening scene. That's where the married couple played by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are trying to engage in sexual relations but he's distracted and a bit weirded out by their infant daughter watching them, although likely not realizing what they're up to.

It's then that we realize this is going to be the story of former partygoers who've found that lifestyle shelved now that they're parents with a little one under their care. The childish behavior segues over into the plot development of having the Delta Si frat boys move in next door. Their leader (Zac Efron continuing to distance himself from his early, clean cut success in the biz) is determined to have their class go down in the annals of history for their particular frat.

That leaves the couple -- and particularly Mac -- torn because they know they're supposed to be the responsible parents but they really want to go and party with the guys. He and Kelly do just that, as something of an early peace offering (including the requisite token gift of some joints) between the two parties. That peace ends when Mac reneges on his promise not to call the cops should things get out of hand, thus starting the battle of wills and wits between the households.

What follows is fairly predictable and definitely sophomoric at best. That said, it does generate some really big belly laughs along the way, as well as some cultural asides that are humorous in their own right (such as Efron and Rogen's characters debating and imitating who best played Batman in the movies). And there are a few warm moments scattered among the naughty material, while Rogen and Byrne have good chemistry together (and some, but not all, parents will be able to identify with the movie couple's new parenting and lifestyle travails and sacrifices).

But, although not terribly surprising, the film and its male characters are way too obsessed with male genitals, even if that might fit in well with the mindset of the majority of the film's target audience. And most of the rest of the humor also comes from the XY mindset, including a gross-out bit about "milking" a lactating mother so that her breasts (apparently) won't burst.

The biggest sin, though, is that the screenwriters aren't clever enough in the actual "battle" plans from both sides. The possibilities are endless, but some of the material (including a few extended cameo bits featuring Lisa Kudrow as the college dean who's only concerned about PR) simply isn't as inspired as it should have been. And the ending -- while certainly frenetic -- is a bit of a letdown in terms of creativity and inspired looniness.

As long as you don't mind the decidedly adult material, "Neighbors" provides for some spurts of stupid, but big belly laughs as well as occasional bouts of clever and amusing material. But I don't know how long you'd want it living next door. It rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed April 9, 2014 / Posted May 9, 2014


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