In Neighbors, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are adapting to life with their newborn baby girl Stella, and their new L.A. home. As new parents, they’re too preoccupied to enjoy any aspects of a sex life, although they try. Kelly is stuck at home with the baby, as Mac works at a dull 9-5 desk job, which he spends more time getting high with his buddy Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) than working. They try to find excitement anywhere they can, but it’s hard to find. Early in the film we see them try to go out with their friend (and Jimmy’s ex-wife) Paula (Carla Gallo), who invites them out to a late night party. Only they don’t know what to do with the baby to the point where they consider bringing her with them, only to pass out near the door, never actually making it out of the house.
Ironically, they get the excitement that they desire when a fraternity just happens to move next door to them, disrupting the calm suburban life that they never got to appreciate. The pack is led by pretty boy leader Teddy (Zac Efron) and his second in command Pete (Dave Franco). There’s also Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Garf (Jerrod Carmichael) and the unfortunately named frightened pledge known as Assjuice (Craig Roberts). They’re young, wild, horny, and love to throw huge bangers.
After introducing themselves, the Mac and Kelly end up partying with the kids, and they actually hit it off a bit. It’s here Teddy asks his neighbors never to call the cops if they’re partying too loud, but rather to just come to him and ask them to quiet down. Of course they end up partying too loud and Teddy doesn’t pick up Mac’s calls. The cops are called, and the fun begins. Soon they’re involved in vicious game of cat and mouse, with each side finding ways to sabotage one another.
Rest assured, if you go into Neighbors expecting silly frat-themed antics, you’ll have fun with it. There’s abundant amounts of alcohol and drug use, used to create some of the more memorable party scenes that I have seen in some time. As someone only a few years removed from college life, I can tell you that Stoller got it right. There’s one particular scene where Kelly manipulates Pete into hooking up with Teddy’s girl Brooke (Halston Sage), which is sharply shot and one of the most memorable moments of the film
While Neighbors sometimes struggles with some of the more improvised moments of comedy, which often simply last too long (the job fair scene between Teddy and Pete), most of the scenes between the two rivals fulfill their comedic duties. What surprised me the most was the more heartfelt moments found within the script penned by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien. This is mostly found in the about-face performance from Zac Efron, which is a game changer for the actor. He has plenty of fun torturing his neighbors, but its all a mask for his internal struggle of what comes next for him post-college. While Pete has jobs lined up after college, Teddy’s GPA barely keeps him afloat. This comes in contrast to Mac and Kelly who are struggling with adulthood. In a way, both groups want what the others want, without ever realizing in. This mature undertone seemed to be missed by most audiences.
Neighbors makes you chuckle rather consistently, although you’re constantly waiting for that one big tear-inducing laugh to finally land. Those moments are close, such as seeing Zac Efron chuck a can of PBR at Seth Rogen, or Rogen jumping straight into a fast moving ceiling fan. Zac Efron is the best part of the film in a role that will surely redefine his career. You have a fitting role for Seth Rogen who does his job alongside a loveably delightful Rose Byrne. Dave Franco has some moments alongside Efron, but the development of the rest of the frat is somewhat thin, especially with Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who is completely wasted. I was happy to see Craig Roberts (Submarine) get some time to shine here, as well as the always hilarious Hannibal Buress, who plays an oddball cop. Ike Barinholtz nearly steals every scene he’s in with ridiculous hijinks.
It’s not the best comedy that you’ll see this year, but it is a lot more solid than most people will realize. You could really do worse than watching Seth Rogan and Zac Efron duke it out over 97 minutes, especially when at the core of it all they’re just trying to figure out what they’re doing with their lives.