Neighbors is different for director . His films, like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Five-Year Engagement, have a strong focus on character. They're comedies that are willing to broach the two hour mark, fully confident their characters call for that length. While The Five-Year Engagement was bloated, it never suffered due to a lack of character or drama. Neighbors never aspires to that film's ambition, but considering its goals are much different, that's perfectly acceptable.
This is a nonstop comedy that is always invested in how much sillier it can get. The overall film is as simplistic as its story: Mac () and Kelly Radner () are a happy couple until a fraternity moves in next door, led by the dim Teddy Sanders (). At first they make a deal with Teddy meant to make everyone happy. If there's a noise problem, they'll call Teddy before they get the cops involved. One night when they can't ask Teddy to keep it down, they ring the police. This breaks the bond Mac and Teddy formed at the start, turning them into enemies who go to plenty of immature places.
What's refreshing, and the best thing Neighbors has going for it, is that it doesn't make this war a boys club. This isn't a comedy where the self-aware female protagonist has to put up with the "lovably" goofy male lead. This time they're equally immature. Kelly even has a terrific line expressing her frustration with why she can't sink to their level, posing the question on all our minds: why can't she and all other women have the role? Why are men only permitted to act like total goofs and getaway with it?
Stoller and screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien allow for Rose Byrne to raise her middle finger at anyone who thinks women aren't better at playing the Kevin James role better than Kevin James himself. She steals this movie, never missing a beat. Even her smallest of jokes, like reaction shots in the background, earn big laughs. When people leave Neighbors, they'll be talking about her performance.
The thin narrative, which doesn't have much buildup and a few too many endings, gets it energy from its cast. Everyone is game. No joke or act is too silly. There's even a two minute scene involving a cop asking a kid named Garfield to act like a cat. It easily could've been cut, but thank God it wasn't.
Neighbors could use some trims, though, especially at the end. The cut that premiered at SXSW is unfinished, and if they plan on make it shorter, the movie would be better off. But, for the most part, it's quickly placed, even when there's not much momentum.
Unlike Stoller's other films, there's little drama between the two leads. When there is, it's mostly played for laughs. This is the kind of comedy where there's no place for any serious drama. Neighbors never tries to be anything more than it is, which is a very funny and successful broad comedy.