Zac Efron: This Generation's Tom Cruise or This Generation's Brad Pitt? This generation's Ted McGinley.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Three and a half kegs of watered-down Meisterchau out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Fraternity moves in next door to negligent parents. Everybody wins.
Tagline: "Family vs. Frat"
Better Tagline: "College was apparently a lot more fun than I remember."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Life without zoning ordinances can be a tricky proposition, as any Houstonian could tell you. New parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) know this all too well, as the house next door has just been bought by Delta Psi, a local fraternity. They live in peaceful coexistence for about two days, until Mac calls the police during one of the frat's parties, drawing the ire of Delta Psi president and senior Teddy (Zac Efron) and leading to an escalating war of practical jokes, vandalism, and felony assault.
"Critical" Analysis: Director Nicholas Stoller has helmed some of the weakest entries in the Judd Apatow-verse (Get Him to the Greek, The Five-Year Engagement), so you can be forgiven if you were leery of this newest effort. Fortunately, Neighbors has two significant factors in its favor: it's thoughtful without descending into typical levels of Apatow schmaltz; and it features a supporting cast that includes -- among others -- Hannibal Burress, Carla Gallo, and Ike Barinholtz.
Sure, Seth Rogen is ... well, he's Seth Rogen. I saw an article recently that talked about he's the most important person in comedy right now, and if we're talking about "filmmaker/writer" Seth Rogen, then sure. "Actor" Seth Rogen? Not so much. Because while Mac may be the stoner attempting to be a mature father and husband, he's still a stoner. Aside from Observe and Report, which was unpleasant for a number of reasons, the guy has made a very comfortable living playing himself. He's like the 21st century Jack Nicholson (there's a comparison that's going to come back to bite me on the ass).
But Rose Byrne -- playing that rarest of roles: a well written female character -- and the non-marquee cast members make Neighbors worth watching, especially Barinholtz as Mac's scumbag friend Jimmy. Best known as Doug on The Mindy Project (that sounds a lot less impressive when you type it out), he gets some of the best lines and provides the bulk of the most offensively hilarious moments. I won't spoil the jokes, but one takes place when he and the Radners are discussing strategies to bring down the frat, and another comes when he imitates President Obama calling a radio show. I laughed despite my deep, burning shame.
Efron is also better than I've given him credit for. Then again, he's playing a bratty pretty boy for most of the film. In spite of that, he finally achieves a kind of peace with his situation at film's end. And if you squint your eyes, it's easy to see Teddy as an undergrad Billy from St. Elmo's Fire, minus the earring and cheesy sax solos.
So there's some welcome self-awareness among the copious weed smoking and dildo fights (Sentences I Never Thought I'd Write, #752 in a series). Teddy comes to grips with his future prospects, while Mac and Kelly belatedly accept the realities of being parents. ruefully shaking their heads at the antics of childless Jimmy and Paula in a scene that more or less confirms every negative smug parent stereotype in less than one minute.
Which, ultimately, is hilarious because they're unbelievably shitty parents. Maybe the babysitter scenes were cut, but by all appearances, they leave their infant daughter unattended on at least three occasions to go next door and take mushrooms/do shots/smoke weed. I know this is a comedy (though there were a handful of points where the story could have veered into very dark territory indeed), so nothing was going to happen to baby Stella, but I couldn't help cringing as Mac and Kelly partied until dawn, because ten-month olds *always* sleep through the night.
This after letting the kid sit in a yard full of garbage, where she could find a condom and [SPOILER] put it in her mouth.[/SPOILER] In retrospect, all Teddy had to do was call CPS and tell them the parents next door were smoking pot with their kid in the house. Problem solved.
Neighbors is in theaters today. Have you checked on the children lately?
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