Old School, that funny frat comedy starring Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn that proudly stands alongside Animal House as a genre-best, is already 11 years-old.
ELEVEN … YEARS … OLD.
So, yes, the world is ripe for a new, quality frat comedy—and it gets a good new entry with the new Seth Rogen offering, Neighbors.
Mac and Kelly (Rogen and Rose Byrne) are happily adjusting to their new roles as parents to a baby daughter in a quiet suburban neighborhood. However, while they are adjusting to their new sleep and sex schedules, a fraternity moves in next door.
They don’t panic, figuring they are still cool enough to get along with college kids. An initial meeting with frat president Teddy (Zac Efron) goes well, and they even wind up joining the fray (baby monitor in hand) for a drugged-out, booze-drenched party, establishing themselves as cool neighbors who might be able to handle a party house next door. Mac and Teddy even develop a brotherly camaraderie, suggesting that if Mac were just a few years younger, he might’ve been a worthy frat brother. They talk about getting walkie-talkies to communicate between their houses. They bond.
Of course, the honeymoon doesn’t last for long.
When a weeknight party keeps the baby up, Mac and Kelly transform from party-happy neighbors into sleep-deprived malcontents, and they call the cops. Teddy takes this as a stab in the back, which leads to all-out war. There will be no walkie-talkies for Mac and Teddy.
I doubt moviegoers will have much difficulty with the thin plot. The movie concentrates on rapid-fire jokes, and most of them hit the mark, often with shockingly raunchy results. Nobody goes to a movie like this yearning for gravitas; instead, viewers get to see what happens when a toddler puts a discarded condom in her mouth. (It’s a jaw dropping punch line, for sure.)
Efron, who took a shot at broad comedy earlier this year with the awful That Awkward Moment after a string of dramatic misfires, creates a hilariously odd person in Teddy. Teddy has issues underneath his Abercrombie-model physique: He has a tragic need to be accepted that places partying as the No. 1 priority over cracking a book. When Mac turns on him, Teddy turns to annihilation mode—but you can see the hurt behind his beautiful eyes.
Coming out of nowhere with amazing comic chops is Byrne, who earns some of the film’s biggest laughs (an uncomfortable joke involving breast-feeding not withstanding). Director Nicholas Stoller wisely finds a way for Byrne to use her Australian accent (she was an exchange student who met Mac at college), and she gives a commanding performance. From her inability to deliver the words “Keep it down!” in a cool way, to her scheming “Hos before bros” technique utilized to take down the fraternity, Byrne brings atomic estrogen to this bro-fest.
Neighbors isn’t a typical “neighbor” comedy, in which the neighbors are far apart in age and sensibilities like Dennis the Menace. The thing that makes Neighbors unique is that Mac and Kelly are almost envious of the fun going on at the loud house next door; it’s the sort of mayhem they were into just a few years ago. Meanwhile, Teddy seems slightly aware that he’s just a few years away from becoming the annoyed guy next to loud neighbors. It makes for a very strange dynamic.
While that strange dynamic might fuel the emotional tension in the movie, Neighbors is really all about moments like Mac unsuspectingly deploying an airbag placed in his office chair, and funny dildo jokes.
Hey, it’s hard to make a funny dildo joke these days. They’ve been done to death. Neighbors is one of those movies that makes done-to-death jokes funny again.
Neighbors is playing at theaters across the valley.