Modern comedies aren’t a hit with everyone, especially when it comes to the crass ones that come from talents such as Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Some audience members love these films, and others find the humor in them to be juvenile and overly dependent upon the harsh language in use. Personally, I believe that this completely dependent upon the film and the script being used. Some of these movies put the otherwise immature jokes to good use, while others aren’t quite as tactful, and come off as a much more distasteful work. The latest release featuring the talent of both Rogen and Goldberg, Neighbors, leans on the more inventive side of this spectrum, and I can honestly say that I really enjoyed this film.
In Neighbors, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play Mac and Kelly Radner, a young married couple who live in a nice suburban neighborhood with their newborn, Stella. All is well for this pair until the members of the Delta Psi Beta fraternity at a nearby college buy the property next to the Radners and make it their chapter house. The two try to befriend the frat’s president Teddy Sanders, played by Zac Efron, but the party culture soon gets too out of hand for the couple, and a war of sorts erupts between the Radners and the members of Delta Psi Beta.
The comedy factor in this movie is fantastic. I don’t remember there being many spaces in the film in during which I wasn’t laughing. The ensemble cast is perfect; Rogen and Byrne, both well-known for their hilarious chops in their other films, make for a very funny duo, which is impressive since they are both placed in roles that they don’t usually play. Efron has also proven that he has much more to offer us than Troy Bolton, and even delivers a few of the more somber scenes in the movie. Another actor who was very entertaining in this film was Dave Franco, who played Delta Psi Beta Vice President Pete Regazolli. Some of the funniest lines in the film were delivered by Franco, and the film’s final act even revealed him as a sort of foil to Efron’s character. There were also several smaller roles occupied by faces that we love to see in films like this such as Lisa Kudrow and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, as well as several cameos by the likes of Andy Samberg, Blake Anderson, and Adam DeVine.
I was expecting this film to contain laughs; I wasn’t expecting it to have heart. This movie starts off as a surface-level laugh fest and then throws a very welcome curveball in its second half and turns up the drama. Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t only view these characters as comedians, but that I had also become a bit invested in their lives and issues. There were some personal issues with some on the fraternity members that I, being a college student, could personally relate to. It was at this point that the writers and cast proved that this wasn’t just another smutty American comedy, but rather a story that is relevant to everyone who has experienced the pains of growing up. This character development may have felt like filler to viewers who only wanted to see what kind of gross-out humor that they paid for, but I personally welcomed the change of pace.
Of course, not all of the jokes worked. There were a few times during the screening that I attended that some audience members released pity laughs at the less original material in the movie. Also, out of all of the serious scenes that worked well that I mentioned above, there was one rather dark, uncomfortable dialogue between Teddy and the Radners that really killed the tone of the movie for bit. Also, with the exception of Byrne’s character, I didn’t care for the way that the women were portrayed in the movie. Instead of being strong, empowered college students, most of the ladies present were ditzy, boy-hungry sorority girls who, in one very unbelievable scene, were willing to stand in a giant line just to buy some sex toys. They weren’t people so much as they were plot devices, which is upsetting to see in a comedy that can prove that it is, in fact, capable of having strong female roles. Still, I loved Neighbors, and I would recommend it to any fan of modern raunchy comedies.