Monday, May 12, 2014

[Review] Neighbors

Neighbors is a film of shocks, and I'm not talking about the peeing sword fights or breast-milking-gone-wrong scenes. That stuff is to be expected in this raunchy, yet vibrant comedy, starring Seth Rogan, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, and Dave Franco. It certainly brings the laughs, and nearly all of the humor lands effectively, no matter the angle. But it's also a thoughtful conjuncture of generational disconnect, fears of growing up, and what it means to straddle those lines of youth and adulthood.

Kelly (Byrne) and Mac (Rogan), are new parents, just settling down in a new home. Early on, they get invited to their friend's get-together and are encouraged to bring the baby along. In a frazzled scramble of getting ready, preparing the baby, and deciding what supplies to bring or not,  they're exhausted before they even step out the door. It's a tellingly clever scene of characterization, and it also sets up their vulnerability for the impending chaos.

That chaos comes in the form of a wild fraternity that moves in nextdoor to them. It's lead by YOLO-enthusiasts and masters of the #TurnUp, Teddy (Efron) and Pete (Franco). Kelly and Mac immediately worry about the noisy environment. They attempt to be cool and get on the good side of the frat while establishing mutual respect--even showing up and letting loose at one of the parties, all so they can tactfully tell the frat to keep things from getting too out-of-hand in the future. That fails, and the situation becomes a bitter rivalry between households.

Seth Rogan is Seth Rogan, essentially occupying a post-Knocked Up world. Rose Byrne is outstanding, often stealing though show while relishing in all of the antics. But the film's big surprise is Zac Efron's performance as a bro-lord who still manages to be completely endearing. He displays adept comic timing, as well as a knack for saying hilarious things with a stone-serious face. And his sort of lookalike, Dave Franco, does a pretty wicked Robert DeNiro impression. Another pleasant surprise is the film's stunning visuals--most pronounced during the neon-y Spring Breakers-esque party sequences. The fresh, experimental cinematography tricks are accompanied with wall-pounding Icona Pop and Kesha songs.

Neighbors is a raucous celebration of the ups and downs amid life's different stages, but it holds onto the idea of embracing change without leaving everything behind. But don't get it twisted, Neighbors is first and foremost a riotous, unfiltered comedy. It doesn't quite reach the heights of its contemporaries like Superbad, or even last year's This Is The End, but what it has in common with those hits is that--no matter how over-the-top things get, the humor serves the cozy undercurrents, and vice-versa. And most of the time, that's the best balance.


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