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Friday, May 9, 2014

Neighbors Review: Side-Splitting and Outrageously Funny

Neighbors could be instant comedy genius, but we'll let your obscene laughter be the judge.

Story by: Matt Cummings

There are a few comedies that resonate so well with audiences that they become highly-quotable pop culture treasures, carrying on far longer than the movie which inspired them. The original Anchorman, Ted, and The Watch are a few recent ones that come to mind. We think the next to enter such rarefied air will be Neighbors, a fiercely unapologetic, exceptionally dirty production that almost enjoys rolling in its own crass and filth like a happy pig.  We're almost embarrassed it didn't initially make our May Movie List.

Mac (Seth Rogan) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are newly with child, an adorable little girl with enough personality and looks to fill their newly-purchased first home. The area is quiet and filled with good neighbors, and prospects to fill the vacant house next door are high. That all changes when the Delta Psy Kappa fraternity buys the house and begin to party from the moment they arrive. Kelly and Mac see the problem already but also remember their wild lives before marriage and baby and try to be good neighbors by bringing marijuana to the party. The goodwill gesture lasts for about one day, as frat president and Teddy (Zac Efron) and vice-president Pete (Dave Franco) schedule one bash after another. This begins a wild effort by Mac and Kelly to upend the frat's efforts to host the ultimate party, as each side escalates the pranks and pressure in an effort to drive the other out of the neighborhood.

Director Nicholas Stoller looks like he just turned on the camera in portions and let our well-cast team run wild, particularly during a scene involving the Psy boys as they patch up their strained relationship by tennis-matching the 'Bros Before Hoes" mantra which every dude learns in high school. Just think of Mark Wahlberg's rant of white trash names in Ted and you get the idea. But there's more to Neighbors than that - Writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien never let off the gas to craft an inspirational message or throw in a real story about leaving college or not applying yourself, a problem which plagues most comedies these days. We'll take that sort of action in terse action or drama flicks, but not here.  And gladly, we don't have to worry.  Instead, we revel as each side ups the ante until the wild finish that's filled with enough raunch to equal everything we saw in 2013's run of so-so comedies. Afraid of men hitting each other with dildos? Look somewhere else. Uncomfortable with breast feeding gone horribly wrong? Move along to a nicer movie.

What we also liked about Neighbors is the solid acting from our four leads. Mac and Kelly are clearly uncomfortable with the transition into a life of responsibility, while Pete and Teddy soon begin to realize that their days of partying will soon be replaced by meetings and other boring real-life stuff. Their efforts to get their images plastered on Psy's wall of fame become the bane of Mac and Kelly's existence, but their hi-jinks also yield incredibly funny comedic fruit.

Effron, fresh off his disappointing performance in That Awkward Moment is solidly funny here, unwilling to see that the light at the end of the tunnel is probably not a bong or another hit of weed. His perfectly-chiseled physique will impress the ladies, and his chemistry with Franco and the collection of college losers in the frat house - including Kick-Ass 2's Christopher Mintz-Plasse - result in a great scene involving cast molds of their privates. Andy Samberg and others arrive to play cameos and other short roles, which make for quick and hilarious interludes as the boys recall Psy's glory days, or find other ways to make complete asses of themselves, all for our enjoyment. Byrne is always solid, but we also found Rogan to be more than passable here, something we can't really say about any of his previous roles. He seems to do best when he's not in the director's chair and is free to run wild in front of the camera.  Stoller lets him do just that, and his chemistry with both Byrne and Effron keeps the story going between pranks.

Clearly Neighbors isn't the kind of film you take your parents, priest, or easily-offended friend to see. The comedy is as raunchy as anything we've seen recently, but we think you'll laugh out loud enough to justify taking the risk of leaving them to something more passive. Its originality should leave audiences fiercely quoting sections of it for years to come, which should equal short-term box office gold, as nothing of this sort is currently in theaters.  We're not sure if a better comedy is on the horizon, but Neighbors instantly rises to the top of that heap.

Neighbors is rated R for just about everything under the sun (including male nudity) and has a runtime of 96 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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