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Neighbors – Movie Review

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Neighbors – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

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Seth Rogen is a consistently funny and likeable comedian and part of that is his everyman quality. His looks are so contrary to the typical Hollywood leading man look, not to mention his infectious laugh and the genuine good heartedness that comes through in a lot of his roles, despite the constant swear words that stream out of his mouth. Neighbors is another showcase of his laidback humour and talent, working under the direction of fellow Judd Apatow alumnus Nicholas Stoller and surrounding himself with other funny people. The film’s ribald, boyish humour could have gotten old quickly, but it manages to remain funny through every scene and hijink.

While the plotline of Neighbors could be summed up as a basic “Us vs. Them”, the screenplay (credited to Andrew J Cohen and Brendan O’Brien) is a lot more layered in its characterization of its protagonists. Mac and Kelly so desperately want to hold onto their youth, even when raising a newborn girl, and the comedy comes naturally from this situation. The baby actually produces some of the biggest laughs in Neighbors, from simply the small glances and the way he looks at Rogen cracking his usual barrage of jokes. This is a movie that understands that babies are funny without the need for special effects and cheap gimmicks (do you hear that, E-Trade?). Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are a believable couple and while Rogen does his usual improvised spitballs, Byrne more than holds her own. Keeping her natural Australian accent, she successfully portrays Kelly’s “mama bear” protective nature and her more wild partygoer side. In competing against the fraternity next door, their younger selves are unwittingly unleashed as they deal with life in their thirties.

However, the neighbours are not simply one-dimensional annoyances. Zac Efron’s fraternity president Teddy is given an interesting story arc, wherein like the “old people” next door, he has a fear of losing his youth as the real world sets in. While he is not entirely sympathetic, Efron does not portray him as a monster and he does a good job of showcasing his comedic muscles. While his adlibs in That Awkward Moment seemed forced, Nicholas Stoller allows Efron to be more relaxed as he manages to believably face off against Rogen and Dave Franco. Even Franco has some dimension as he’s conflicted between his support of Delta Psi and actually doing what university students are supposed todo. While he’s still a long way away from getting out from under his older brother’s shadow, Dave Franco is proving himself to be a talented young actor.

Thankfully, Neighbors doesn’t ruin its best jokes in the advertising, mainly because a lot of them wouldn’t work in any censored trailer. Seth Rogen presents his usual f-bombs and weed jokes, but they are so second nature to him now, that they never come across as forced. He’s one of those actors, who mostly plays himself and whose shtick doesn’t appear to ever get old. Rogen isn’t even afraid to let his gut hang out, despite a shirtless Efron appearing in the same scene (though adlibbed jokes about his body are certainly plentiful). The party scenes act as almost a parody of the debauchery-laden festivities in Spring Breakers, while still managing to progress the story and bring a lot of successful jokes to the table. The movie features plenty of jokes on male anatomy, but again, they’re an element that doesn’t tire and feels like a natural part of who these characters are without getting too gratuitous or moronic. Nicholas Stoller directs all of his actors well, even the ones in very small roles, giving them the freedom to improvise and have as much fun as possible. Ike Barinholtz even gets to utilise his former sketch show background to launch into a couple of spot-on celebrity impressions.

Most of what Neighbors wants to do is be funny and it certainly succeeds in that regard. However, its themes on accepting your eventual adulthood while keeping your youthful vigour are well explored. Of course, Seth Rogen is funny and likeable as he normally is, but Rose Byrne and Zac Efron’s comedic chops shouldn’t be sneered at. Efron’s part is even made a tad funnier, if you pretend he’s playing his High School Musical character in college life. This is a comedy that doesn’t wear out its welcome and not one scene is wasted as almost every comedic potential is explored.

Review By: Stefan Ellison


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