Sunday, May 11, 2014

Review: Neighbors

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.
* Note: I couldn't find any publicity stills of "Neighbors" that didn't feature the title and "In Theaters May 9" slapped across them, so I'm stuck with this one. It doesn't look great, but alas.

The thing about "Neighbors" is that it's funny enough - if not quite the onslaught of hilarity that you may have heard it is. Yes, it's funnier than a majority of the comedies that Hollywood will dish out this year, which isn't saying a whole lot. On the laugh-o-meter, it comes nowhere close to "Bridesmaids," the gold standard of the past few years, but it's slightly better than the extremely overrated "The Hangover."

I admit to having laughed out loud on several occasions - one particular moment involving a ceiling fan was particularly guffaw-inspiring - and had a good enough time during the film. But reading some of the reviews, you'd think that the critics who watched this film had stumbled upon some long lost reel of Buster Keaton.

In other words, the film is clever enough without breaking any new ground or distinguishing itself from the pack. It follows the story of that 30s couple you likely know who always talks about how old they feel. Here, they are played by Seth Rogen, the everyman of stilted adulthood, and Rose Byrne, who gets to show off her comedic chops and nearly steals the show from all the boys. They have a young baby girl on a nice quiet neighborhood in California. That is, until a rowdy frat house moves in next door.

The fraternity's president is played by Zac Effron, who is given more opportunities than Taylor Lautner in any given "Twilight" film to show off his enviable abs. Other frat brothers include Dave Franco, who can perform a magic trick of sorts with his... well, moving on. There's also Christopher Mintz-Plasse, whom we are told has a sizable... yes, moving on again.

Rogen and Byrne decide to attempt to be "cool" with their new neighbors, bringing over a complimentary joint and asking them to keep it down. Effron's frat boy asks them to call him first if the house gets too loud, rather than calling the police. But once that promise is later broken, the couple and the frat boys engage in a tit for tat that gets increasingly out of control.

"Neighbors" engages in the same outrageous bodily function-type of humor that you'd expect from this kind of film. But what makes is slightly more engaging and likable than others of its type is that its characters are developed a little more than you'd typically find in a raunchy comedy and that none of them are flat-out bad people. In fact, a bromance, of sorts, between Rogen and Effron before things turn ugly adds a sweet nature to the proceedings and a few good laughs as they compare Christian Bale and Michael Keaton's Batman.

The jokes come a mile-a-minute during the movie and while some are pretty funny (that aforementioned ceiling fan during a fight sequence that's pretty all-around funny), others fall flat ( a series of celebrity impressions that ends in one that's a little in bad taste). All in all, "Neighbors" works well enough, but I'd say it's too early to proclaim this the comedy of the summer.

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