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The new comedy Neighbors (or known as Bad Neighbours internationally) is a movie that wants to be both a frat boy/party movie and a gross out comedy with mostly successful results thanks to the direction of Nicholas Stoller and some inventive gags to help Neighbors stand out.
Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are a married couple who have just had a baby and settling down to suburban monotony. Their worst nightmare happens when the Delta Psi Beta fraternity moves next door and their President, Teddy (Zac Efron) wants to join the legends of the brotherhood and create something that would go down as party history. Soon war breaks out between the family and the frat as Mac and Kelly look for any way to get rid of the fraternity. Yet the fight puts some spark in the couple’s lives.
Neighbors winning feature is the gross out gags and violent slapstick as both male and female characters have eye watering moments involving anything from the penis to the breasts. The humor is crass but it’s done very well, providing many moments of belly laughs as Stoller has a no hold barred approach to the gags. The humor is not for everyone, but fans of movies like American Pie and Ted will enjoy it.
A fine cast of comic talent was assembled, Rogen, Byrne, Dave Franco and Efron with his emerging comedy abilities. Even actors of high calibre such as Lisa Kerchow, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Ike Barinholtz are involved in minor roles. Though Rogen somehow gets another unobtainable woman he works well with Byrne and he plays on his man-child persona as someone who wants excitement in some form. Efron and Franco do make a good double act and have a bromance, using plenty of energy with their roles. Franco does something very rare for him, he plays someone we can sympathize with.
Stoller adds plenty of visual flair to comedy, using video talk and filmed footage on cell phones appearing on the screen, different filming styles to reflect different periods and events and a unique looking party, mixing dark lighting and fluorescent colors to make it visually distinctive.
The writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brenden O’Brien ensure a theme of growing up is prevalent as Mac and Kelly juggle parenthood and their responsibilities and their want for excitement that they use to have and not wanting the consequences of either. The frat too have these issues, Teddy wanting to go down as a party legend whilst Pete (Franco) sees the bigger picture beyond college life. This is a movie that blends comic exaggeration of the conflict and pranks whilst acknowledging the wider world of responsibilities the characters have. This is not like 2012’s Project X which lived in a moral vacuum where nothing matters more then partying and popularity.
The physical and gross humor is strong, the verbal humor is more hit and miss. A particularly bad example is when Teddy and Pete go through many rhyming variants of ‘Bros before Hos’: a joke that was not that funny to start with and outstays its welcome. Cohen and O’Brien do more work by create a very episodic script, tying different comic set pieces together as the warring parties try to ‘one up’ each other than they do in creating a cohesive story. Neighbors does also take the occasional dark turn which is very out of place, one moment especially being when Teddy threatens Mac and Kelly.
Neighbors is a crude and lude comedy that will please fans of that type of humor. It pushes the rude humor to creative levels. Some of the jokes are misses but there are enough big laugh moments to make Neighbors a worthwhile experience for its demographic.