Neighbors: Be a Man and Milk Me
If you are in the mood for a laugh riot movie, stay at home and rent Horrible Bosses. If you’re in the mood for a few hearty chuckles, go see Neighbors. For the most part, this is a sad case where the majority of the jokes are in the trailer. The element of surprise is crucial in comedy, and most of it seemed lost because I knew what was coming. However, Both Seth Rogen and Zac Efron are perfectly cast. Even more refreshing is the role Rose Byrne plays as Rogen’s wife. Although it is not the funniest comedy I’ve ever seen, it is an enjoyable movie to start the summer blockbusters, and a progressive one, at that.
Let’s set the scene. Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are new parents who have recently moved into their dream home. Not too long after, though, Teddy (Zac Efron) and his brothers at Delta Psi Beta move into the house next door. Mac and Kelly want to be the young, hip, neighbors, but of course, are concerned with how the fraternity will affect their living situation. They go over to party with the brothers and make allies. This works until the frat throws another party the next night. Mac and Kelly choose to anonymously call the police, but are revealed to Teddy by the officer to be the culprits behind the noise complaint. And so begins the back and forth shenanigans.
I’ll refrain from discussing the shenanigans because they’re either in the trailer or I don’t want to ruin the few surprises left in the film. However predictable or outrageous the events that ensue might be, the role of the three leads is what is most refreshing to me. You know how Vince Vaughn always plays Vince Vaughn? He doesn’t become a character, but a story is shaped around him as a comedian. That is usually the case with Seth Rogen, as well. In Neighbors, Rogen demonstrates his ability to become a character as opposed to staying Seth Rogen. Of course, this transition is gradual. He still has his signature laugh and he remains pot’s poster boy, but Mac has significant depth compared to any other character Rogen has played.
The opposite can be said for Zac Efron. Efron, we all know, started out in the High School Musical series, but from there, moved on to more significant and serious roles. He is not an actor who plays himself, but one who falls into character. So, I was surprised by how exceptional he is as a comedian. It’s not that he’s never acted in a comedy, but it’s just not what he is most associated with. First of all, his look is perfection for a frat boy – I don’t know how he hasn’t been cast as that before – but his whole performance adds a little zest to what could have been just another Seth Rogen flick.
The aspect of the film I most appreciate is the fact that Rose Byrne never plays the nagging wife. In fact, that very issue is brought up in the movie and discussed at length. She isn’t cast to be the straight-man; she’s just as zany and unpredictable as Rogen. This is exceptionally progressive, especially in a male dominated comedy. Rose Byrne is establishing herself as a Sidney Poitier, if I may be so bold. Her refusal to let the boys play while she remains the disciplinarian is so important to the evolution of women’s roles in entertainment. I’d love to see her in a movie with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig (especially since Byrne and Wiig’s chemistry in Bridesmaids is so exceptional).
While we’re talking about progressiveness, it is definitely worth mentioning how nice it is just to look at this movie, and not just because Zac Efron is in it. I must specifically point out three instances that really impressed me. Number one, if any of you know the BBC show Sherlock (my absolute, all-time favorite piece of entertainment), you’ll know that it was one of the first shows to put text on the screen, as opposed to simply showing messages on the phone. In Neighbors, this happened with Facetime. I’m not sure if this is the first occurrence, but it is executed well, adding a little extra to the scene. Number two, a few flashback scenes are thrown in, all containing cameos from some exceptionally funny comedians. The flashbacks are one of the few instances where I was surprised by both production quality and the comedic aspect. Number three is the editing. For the most part, the editing is pretty standard, but then come the party scenes. Most people think the only storyteller in filmmaking is the writer, but it is important to understand that everyone who works on a film is part of the storytelling process, especially the big three: writer, director and editor. Zene Baker, editor of Neighbors, took advantage of his role as a storyteller, especially in the blackout party scene. Good editing makes a film all the more fun to watch.
Although it is a fun movie to watch, I do have a love-hate attitude toward it. Rose Byrne’s character may be progressive, but most of the other women in the film are, dare I say, slutty and desperate. At times, the activities went a bit too far and became vulgar. However, the overall moral of the film is an important one to get out to mass audiences. Life moves on, and you need to be ready for what is next. Mac and Kelly start out thinking that they need to fit in with these fraternity brothers, but as the film progresses, so do Mac and Kelly. The same goes for Teddy. Teddy is the president of Delta Psi Beta. He is popular and the center of attention, but he is also a senior. He doesn’t want to accept the fact that everything ends, and that these “brothers” who care about him so much aren’t going to follow him into the real world where no one cares about you, but your few friends and family. He’s not a special snowflake.
If you haven’t seen the trailer, but are interested in seeing the film, do not watch anything related to the film before you go! See it with fresh eyes; I may have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t seen all the jokes first. While this is a progressive film for comedic women, we still have a lot of work to do. Byrne, Rogen and Efron work surprisingly well together, and I’m interested what choices they will make next. Unfortunately, in all its progressive glory, came a lot of immaturity and vulgarity; it’s rated R for a reason. For what it is, Neighbors gets the job done, and I think I can say that it is a successful summer comedy, even if it isn’t the funniest one of all time.
Opened in the US: May 9, 2014
Run Time 1:37
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- Neighbors (2014) - IMDb
Directed by Nicholas Stoller. With Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Lisa Kudrow. A couple with a newborn baby face unexpected difficulties after they are forced to live next to a fraternity house.