Neighbors is an intriguing comedy film that blends the absurdist and crass type of humor that has been popular for the past decade with a throwback to 80’s frat films. Therefore, it’s not really breaking any new ground, but it is mashing together two formulas that have already proven to have the ability to make you laugh.
Gross-out comedies were all the rage in the excessive 80’s and, while they never really went away, they did become more sophisticated. In the 80’s they started as second-rate forms of entertainment with no-name actors making fools of themselves in ridiculously low budget productions. These films typically had to do with college and the hijinks that happened when young adults got their first taste of living without parental supervision. Fast forward to the 2000’s and films like Old School and Van Wilder are the result of audiences never really getting tired of the same basic formula. As audiences expected more from their films, these frat films also improved their production and started casting big-name actors to be in their films. Neighbors is simply the continuation of this trend, but it also blends in characteristics from more recent comedy film trends.
One of these trends is the popularity of Seth Rogen. In Neighbors, Seth Rogen plays basically the same type of character that we’ve always seen him play, but instead of being one of the trouble makers, he is playing the more mature family guy (kind of). This is similar to what they did in Pineapple Express, where James Franco took the role of the drug dealer that seemed to be a better fit for Seth Rogen. Here, Seth Rogen is caught between being one of the partiers who says “turn it up” or being a father who says “turn it down”. Therefore, it’s a story about growing up. However, in order to make that point, the film has to resort to childish antics, which turns the film into a see-saw of emotions where themes don’t get much traction until everything settles down. Those childish antics and the absurdist type of comedy resulting from them has proven popular with the current generation (Superbad, Anchorman), and it does make Neighbors a hilarious film. As a comedy, I suppose that means Neighbors is a success. Although it doesn’t change our perceptions of what these types of films or even Seth Rogen can be, the blending of comedic styles is enough of a new idea to keep you entertained.
Entertainment Value: Although Neighbors isn’t that original, it is pretty funny. It’s mostly absurdist or gross out humor, but there is some situational humor mixed in with all of the genital and drug-related jokes. Basically, if you’ve seen any Seth Rogen film before, you can know what to expect here. The premise of the film is intriguing, and the way it pays homage to frat films of the 80’s keeps it from becoming just another Judd Apatow curse fest. The contrast and butting of heads between Seth Rogen and Zac Efron is the heart of the film, and helps to keep the audiences’ attention. This may not be the funniest film you’ll see this year, but it does earn its “comedy” moniker. Good (4.0/5)
Story: The premise is fairly simple, and although the stakes increase as the film goes on, it never gets ahead of itself nor does the pacing ever feel inconsistent. A lot of the dialogue feels like it is improvised, which is good at times and bad at others. There’s a lot of repetition, with some dialogues featuring a lot of words or phrases getting repeated. At other times, the characters say unexpected things, which add to the unpredictability of the film. Perhaps the biggest flaw of the film is that, although the plot is straight forward, the script is unfocused. There’s a lot of fluff and seemingly unnecessary characters and scenes added in that do nothing but distract. Okay (3.0/5)
Acting: This is a Seth Rogen vehicle with Zac Efron playing the major adversary. Rogen is his usual nonchalant self, with his patented brand of irreverence that makes him lovable. There are only a few minor twists to the character that he usually plays. This time he’s not a loser but a working husband and father who can’t quite let go of his youth. Because of what we’ve seen him do before, it doesn’t take much effort for Rogen to fit into this role well. Efron, on the other hand, is a good counter. This is not really a role we’ve seen him in before, where he is the tough guy party animal. Dave Franco is also in this movie and is good as the smarter version of Efron. Rose Byrne plays Rogen’s wife and is a surprisingly good fit. She goes along with his nonsense and even convincingly helps encourage it at times. The supporting cast is sufficient in their limited roles, and there are a few cameos that fans of Rogen’s previous work will appreciate. Good (3.5/5)
Direction: Nicholas Stoller has made a career writing and directing comedies, so there aren’t really any surprises here. He knows what he is doing and manages the film well. Sometimes there are a lot of details in a shot, which at times can be overwhelming, but in the end helps to add a lot of depth to the film. At times the movie does feel abrupt in its cuts and some scenes feel like they drag on too long. Thankfully, the focus is on the comedy, so the pointless escapades of the script and some of the lengthy scenes don’t ruin the experience that much. Good (3.5/5)
Production: In terms of special effects, this film uses some props in order to gross you out. It’s nothing new, some people will find it amusing, others may lose their appetite. Thankfully, the film doesn’t really go too far, panning up just in time or only making references. Otherwise, this is a pretty standard modern comedy. The picture quality is fine and the music enhances the story, but isn’t necessarily memorable. Overall, this film is both unique and consistent with other comedies that have come out recently. It’s unique in the way it blends a couple genres together, but familiar in the type of comedy it uses and the way it is presented. Therefore, if you like Seth Rogen, chances are you will like this film. If not, then maybe it isn’t right for you. Okay (3.0/5)
What's Bad: Too many pointless scenes and characters, gross out comedy is hit or miss, not exactly original.