May 7, 2014

Review: Seth Rogen and Zac Efron Collide – 'Neighbors'

Seth Rogen Zac Efron Neighbors

Neighbors (aka Bad Neighbours) is a consistently hysterical entry into the hard-R college comedy genre, told from the point of view of young parents. Actor/producer Seth Rogen is growing up as he reverses roles, playing the stodgy adult set against the antics of the hard partying Delta Psi fraternity led by the impossibly perfect seeming Zac Efron when they move next door. While hitting all the marks of a raunchy comedy, it's also surprisingly refreshing in its exploration of youth and adulthood.

What's most fun and interesting is Rose Byrne's MVP role as wife and mother. She is an active participant in the hijinx and insanity, moving the plot along without being relegated to a generic female archetype (like her role in The Internship). This smart characterization and scripting drive the film and laughs forward fluidly. Along with Byrne, Efron's Teddy is far more interesting than you're first led to believe. His appealing performance and manic energy sparkle, preventing him from becoming one note or a typical villain type foil and antagonist. He brings a welcome edge and desperation to the character just as he reveals a compelling yet surprising dark side.

Rogen is at his best when he explores the nature of adulthood and growing up through admittedly sophomoric and cheap humour of the funniest kind. The college life and parenthood are mirrored with youth culture and party life nicely. At points, the film can be thoughtful in its look at getting older and maturing while losing your sense of identity and adjusting to domestic living.

Unsurprisingly, Neighbors features a solid supporting cast who lift the standard us versus them story forward as scripted by newcomers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien. Comedian Ike Barinholtz steals his scenes with deft one-liners as Rogen's buddy and co-conspirator just as Dave Franco moves things along smoothly through his interactions with his frat brothers in support of Efron's all-out antics as ring leader.

Director Nicholas Stoller's assured direction, particularly shooting the the party scenes, brings a dynamic feel to the farcical on screen antics. Neighbors proves itself a tightly focused and lean 96-minute laugh riot of hilarious precision. Everyone involved hits their marks and fires on all comedy cylinders. As a film, it mostly consists of loosely related set pieces, sight gags, and physical comedy pieces, but works fluidly, with good pacing and charming performances. It's a sharply executed broad comedy where you believe the characters and what's going on without sacrificing any jokes.

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