Love Thy Neighbor, Or Not

BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA

urlIf you’re a fan of movies, especially comedies, you’ve probably seen John Landis’ 1978 college classic, “Animal House.” If you haven’t, you should. It’s one of the finest examples of comedic filmmaking, and is a staple in the college-film sub genre that makes for terrifically fun viewing.

Now, in director Nicholas Stoller’s “Neighbors,” he captures something similar to Landis’ celluloid tomfoolery, but falls into a bit of a rut when the jokes and scenarios start to become repetitive.

Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and his wife, Kelly (Rose Byrne) are a young couple living in a suburb with their baby daughter, Stella. They hardly have time now to socialize because of their parental responsibilities, but still try to retain their youthfulness. When a fraternity moves next-door to them, which is led by their president, Teddy (Zac Efron), Mac and Kelly act friendly towards them and politely ask if they could try and keep their noise down. The frat agrees, but only if the couple always asks them, instead of notifying the cops.

After Mac and Kelly notify the police one night when Teddy doesn’t answer their calls to turn the noise down during a loud party, he feels betrayed. Afterwards, Teddy and the frat soon begin to play vengeful pranks on the couple, and Mac and Kelly decide to play dirty as well in order to get their peaceful life back.

Seth Rogen has started to become hit-or-miss for me. Yes, he does say his one-liners as witty as he normally does, but there isn’t much else to say about his character because it’s pretty much the same as it is in his other movies, however, there are hints of a stronger comedic actor in his line delivery and when he acts alongside and plays off of certain people, like Byrne. I feel as though he can easily break out of his average-Joe/lovable-stoner persona if he tried for something a little edgier when doing comedy, which would allow us to see another side to his abilities.

Zac Efron has a chance to emerge from his teen-idol phase with the film’s fraternity setting. One of his funnier scenes happens at a certain point during the first party scene where he and Rogen’s characters compare opinions on Batman in film, with Teddy and Mac doing Christian Bale and Michael Keaton voice imitations, respectively. The other scene involves a frat-house smack-down between Teddy and Mac near the film’s end.

Rose Byrne’s performance is one of the funnier parts of the movie. We got to see glimpses of her comedic skills in “Get Him to the Greek,” where she played a hilariously promiscuous pop star in a supporting role. Then in “Bridesmaids,” she was surrounded by other funny women, but because her character was written to be haughty, she didn’t have much wiggle room to be comical. This is her funniest performance to date, and while watching “Neighbors,” she received almost all of my laughs. It seems as though she’s relishing her part in this film because it finally allows her to join more of the fun.

The screenplay by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien sets up an amusing premise with their battle-of-the-generations concept, however, it doesn’t stay as amusing as it should. At first, it seems like we’re in for some memorable interactions between the parents and frat, especially the scene where Rogen and Byrne’s characters first meet the frat and try to act cool in front of them, particularly Byrne, who really displays her skillful comic timing in this scene. The first couple of sequences that shows them socializing with the frat draws laughs, with the others just getting a chuckle here and there.

As is customary with frat movies, there are wild party scenes. The first party is particularly fun because we have a better and funnier view of Mac and Kelly’s characters interacting with the college students and being exposed to the differences between the two generations. But, by the time the second and third parties come around, they become prolonged and more of the same. Speaking of repetitiveness, although I realize this is a movie centering on the antics of a fraternity, the film could have done with a lot less male-anatomy jokes.

Director Nicholas Stoller is a capable comedy director, which was especially seen in “Get Him to the Greek” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” In those films, he was able to build humorous exchanges between the characters that retained chemistry throughout, connections that are made stronger by how funny the situations are. Compared to “GHTTG” and “FSM,” which are consistently funny, “Neighbors” seems to peter out as the film progresses, with some of the bigger scenes being similar to each other, with weak visual jokes included.

The premise seems hysterical at first, but the film makes it sort of difficult to want to stay an active member of this fraternity.

Final grade: C+