Mac and Kelly want to be cool. They want to have spontaneous sex on their dining room chairs or kitchen floor, but their toddler either watches them too intently, or tires them out. When a local fraternity headed by Teddy (Zac Efron) moves in next door, Mac and Kelly try to prove they are cool by offering the college kids a joint. They just ask that their new neighbors keep the noise down. And Teddy pledges that they will. If things get too rowdy, however, the frat boy insists that the married couple talk with him, not call the cops. Of course, Mac promises, then dials 911 the next night. An all-out war begins.
Neighbors mines its humor from the way the frat boys taunt the parents—trashing their yard, or kissing up to the other residents on the block. Mac and Kelly, in retaliation, create economic and social hardships for the boys next door. In one of the best sequences Kelly constructs an elaborate plan to shake the foundation of the frat to its core, and it occurs during a rather funny dance off between rivals Teddy and Mac.
While there are some amusing moments such as one involving pubic hair being ripped out, Neighbors’ set piece is a truly hilarious sequence in which Mac has to help his wife milk her swollen, painful breasts. The scene is the film’s comic highlight, but it makes a very clever bit involving stolen air bags, or a knock-down drag out fight between Mac and Teddy, pale in comparison. The problem with the humor in Neighbors is that it does not build to wilder and wilder, it kind of peaks at the midpoint and then gets milder.
This is not to say the film is not funny. There is some wit, as when Teddy displays his limited intellect at a job fair, and the film dares to include a punchline about an unfunny topic that is more likely to get a laugh than not. But there are some failed gags, such as a Robert DeNiro themed party that is really kind of useless.
But Neighbors does not operate much on logic. Viewers who actually think, “Who Is watching the baby right now?” as mom and dad party next door, will not be amused. But Rogan fans will enjoy his antics as Mac compares his chest, ups his drug and alcohol intake, shows off his dance moves, and exhibits his sexual prowess against Efron’s Teddy, coming up short almost every time. This is what makes him funny. Efron, for his part, does not get to do much more than reveal his chiseled chest, and his not-so-bright IQ. He does dance well though. Ultimately, Rose Byrne steals the film from the guys. The scene with her breasts may be comic gold, but it is her manipulative ways of undermining the frat boys that truly impresses.
Neighbors certainly has its moments, but with a little more effort, it could have been epic.
Neighbors opens today in Philly area theaters.
Author: Gary M. Kramer
Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer. He is the co-editor of Directory of World Cinema: Argentina. Volumes 1 and 2, and teaches seminars at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer.