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Seth Rogen, Zac Efron wage comic war in 'Neighbors'



By JOCELYN NOVECK

If ever two genres of film were inextricably intertwined, it would seem to be the frat house movie and the gross-out comedy. After all, do frats ever do anything that's NOT gross? Not in the movies, they don't.

"Neighbors," starring (and produced by) Seth Rogen and directed by Nicholas Stoller, proudly straddles these two genres and boldly tosses in a third: The "We've-just-become-parents, NOW-what?" movie. You know these: Baby arrives, cute as a button but bringing ALL kinds of trouble, and then things are resolved in a syrupy sweet finale.

It's safe to say that syrupy sweetness is not a problem with "Neighbors." In fact, it is noisy, crude, profane, gross, and sometimes mean. Luckily, it's also extremely funny, and you'll realize by the end that it has some heart, too.

Most importantly, what it may suffer in narrative coherence it makes up for with a first-rate cast - the reliably funny Rogen, the game-for-anything Rose Byrne, and in the most pleasant surprise, a truly excellent Zac Efron as an immature, narcissistic, vindictive and, by the way, unbelievably buff frat leader whose obnoxious brio might just be masking deeper issues. (Zac, as a parent who had to watch the "High School Musical" films at least 400 times, maybe more, let me just say: I forgive you now.)

Rogen plays Mac Radner, a young father who clearly hasn't smoothly completed his transition to adulthood. He still dreams of the epic partying he once engaged in. And so does his wife, Kelly (Byrne, beautiful as always, and energetically foul-mouthed here.) When a friend suggests an evening at a rave, Kelly and Mac want to go so badly, they decide to bring baby. But they spend so much energy gathering up the stroller, the car seat, the breast pump and the cooler, that they collapse in a heap by the front door. Parenthood ain't easy.

Zac Efron Tells Jimmy Fallon How He Broke His Hand

Still, the couple's doing pretty well in their new suburban digs. Until Delta Psi moves in. Right next door.

At first, Mac and Kelly try to make nice with the frat's leader, Teddy (Efron), who's such a fine physical specimen that Mac calls him "something a gay guy designed in a lab." Debating the least geeky way to say "could ya keep it down?" they head next door, and end up partying all night, just to show how cool they are. But soon, the noise is too much, and they're calling the cops. The war is on.

The script by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien misses no opportunity to mine frat-film clichés. Beer pong? Check. Stunts involving dildos? Check. But it's quite well done, thanks to the nimble comic instincts of Rogen, Byrne, Efron and also Dave Franco as Pete, Teddy's right-hand man at the frat, who unlike his buddy, actually seems to be aiming for a productive future. (Lisa Kudrow, in a small role as a college official, is reliably zany.)

Occasionally the humor goes awry - or just too far. A baby munching on a used condom? "What's that you have there, sweetie, a balloon?" Mac asks. (Cue the delighted groans in the multiplex.) Maybe the joke could have stopped there. But it doesn't.

And how about the visual gag involving, well, a nursing woman's breasts? Was that really necessary?

On a brighter note, there's a priceless bit in which Mac and Teddy bond by trading inter-generational "Batman" impressions: Teddy does Christian Bale, and Mac does Michael Keaton. Another fun scene involves the frat guys trying their hand at Robert de Niro impressions.

At a certain point, the movie starts to feel like an extended "Saturday Night Live" skit, with not much concern for narrative progression. But few people will complain.

And a closing scene that was improvised, placing a shirtless Rogen and Efron in front of an Abercombie & Fitch store, is not only funny but surprisingly touching. It helps that Efron looks exactly like an Abercrombie model.

Again, nobody will complain.

"Neighbors," a Universal Studios release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America "for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout." Running time: 96 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Join the discussion

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vancurren May 08 2014 at 11:21 PM

15 paragraphs of non-news.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
nwyrkjeremy May 08 2014 at 1:34 PM

What is it about famous people that bring out the swine in non-famous people? Hatefilled posts from people too lazy and cowardly to change their own lives.

Instead, they throw rocks at his reputation like they know him.

Instead of a going for a moment of humanity, look at all who choose to hate.

Well, I guess it's hard when you're ugly and broke.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
4 replies
MICHAEL May 08 2014 at 2:04 PM

that man is a god.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
natalie MICHAEL May 08 2014 at 2:36 PM

no one is God, but God, period.. Channing Tatum is equally as good looking as Zac..

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
MICHAEL natalie May 08 2014 at 2:50 PM

oh, i never said mr. tatum wasnt. but since it was this one in the article, i focused on him

Flag 0 rate up
yosefbro666 May 08 2014 at 2:08 PM

Zac Efron is looking hot!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
kaib51 May 08 2014 at 2:09 PM

Another remake of a remake of a remake. Hollywood hasn't had an original thought in years. Where's Mr. Ed?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
natalie kaib51 May 08 2014 at 2:35 PM

lol i too, am sooooo very tired of all the remakes, Hollyweird has no more creativeness, or imagination, very sad

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
Chelle natalie May 08 2014 at 2:46 PM

I agree... its like nothing but remakes are coming out anymore. And we all know originals are always the best.

Flag 0 rate up
yosefbro666 May 08 2014 at 2:09 PM

I love Zac Efron!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
natalie yosefbro666 May 08 2014 at 2:33 PM

he's a cutie, i think he's very talented, i don't love him lol....

Flag Reply 0 rate up
yamel86 May 08 2014 at 2:25 PM

Please quit messing up your good-looking body with tattoos....

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
natalie yamel86 May 08 2014 at 2:33 PM

yes please

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
Cheryl natalie May 08 2014 at 3:02 PM

If you are referring to the tatt on his left arm in this photo from the movie, the symbols stand for "Delta Psi" which is the fraternity they all belong to in the movie. I really don't think Zac has any real tattoos. If he does, I haven't seen them in any photos. I think he knows he doesn't need any body art to improve his looks, but if you are thinking about it, Zac, please reconsider. Perfection should not be messed with!!

Flag 0 rate up
Chelle yamel86 May 08 2014 at 2:45 PM

nothing wrong with tattoos.. maybe they have meaning to him and are his way of expressing body art

Flag Reply 0 rate up
kirkinoregon May 08 2014 at 2:29 PM

Ehhh...there are a thousand(s) men like him in every gym across America. I looked as good as him in my 20's and 30's. What is the big deal?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
natalie kirkinoregon May 08 2014 at 2:32 PM

true enough

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Chelle May 08 2014 at 2:44 PM

thank god they didn't show Seth Rogen shirtless lol

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Jax-Man May 08 2014 at 3:31 PM

I sure has heck would gobble that up - nibble on those pecs for days the swollow it all

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
See ya round Jax-Man May 08 2014 at 4:37 PM

Swollow?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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