Movie review: ‘Neighbors’
May 12, 2014
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Lisa Kudrow, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Rated R, Comedy, 96 minutes
Nicholas Stoller; director of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Get Him to the Greek” and “The Five-Year Engagement;” helms “Neighbors,” a film that places its four main characters at a pivotal juncture in their lives.
Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are new parents and the owners of a Craftsman-style bungalow that could be featured in “Better Homes and Gardens.” Though both possess college degrees, Mac toils in a Dilbertian cubicle under a petty tyrant boss, while Kelly is bored staying at home with a 6-month-old Stella.
To dull her malaise Kelly instigates spontaneous marital intimacy, but, in a stereotypical role reversal, Mac can’t get past baby Stella’s presence in the room. When Stella is absent he loses interest the moment he hears the baby make a peep. It’s a sad/funny turnabout treated almost as a throwaway, but one that effectively illustrates Kelly’s nearly constant state of frustration.
Mac and Kelly’s rough patch is suddenly struck by falling rocks when a chapter of the Delta Psi fraternity moves into the house next door to them.
In contrast to the sight of her flabby, puppyish hubby, Kelly is treated to a beefcake parade led by shirtless house president Teddy (Zac Efron) and his second-in-command Pete (Dave Franco), both assuming Calvin Klein poses in their front yard. However, the guns and abs on display are intended to intimidate young men rather than garner female adoration. Their positions atop the fraternity hierarchy are enough to do the job, but the pair use their good looks as an additional means of lording it over a clutch of young plebes, unfortunate inductees dressed in a uniform of dark blue sweat pants and cutoff hot pink shirts reading “Pledge” on the front.
Even when no obvious joke is evidenced, the film’s caricatured visuals convey humorous, sometimes stomach-churning realities that underpin its characters’ lives.
Somehow Kelly keeps her head in the midst of this testosterone flood, upholding the shaky stereotype that posits women are not tempted by their baser needs.
Though the frat-house parties cause conflict with Mac’s work schedule and the baby’s sleep schedule, they also serve to reacquaint Mac and Kelly with the carefree days of youth — days not far behind them.
All-too-frequent gross-out gags distract from Mac and Kelly’s effort to find gratification in conforming to the expectations of adulthood. Meanwhile, back at the frat, with graduation approaching, Teddy and Pete discover a shift in their own perspectives.
As life situations evolve most reevaluate their priorities and attempt to fit them into whatever life choices they make. It’s a difficult process filled with hazards, temptations and triumphs. This script touches upon many of those coming-of-age milestones but makes no effort to embrace them.