The R rated high school/college comedy is a tried and true genre that seemingly has done everything it could have. All the formulas and combinations have been exercised ad nauseam over the years. But [Neighbors](movie:401406) goes a different route by placing a wild frat house in the middle of suburbia. It’s a concept that is incredibly simple and something that I’m surprised hasn’t been done before. For such a relatively stupid comedy, It's quite genius to put two and two together and here it has struck beer chugging crudeness galore gold. With a perfect pedigree of comedic actors and director as well as a surprisingly comedic heartfelt turn from someone more in tuned with musicals, it turns out to be one of the most original comedies in a while.
Like most movies that are produced by Judd Apatow or have directors and actors who have previously worked with Apatow, they always have a great comedic cast. They are equal parts eclectic and talented, utilizing a wide range of actors. Seth Rogen being one of the most used is funny like he usually is here. Rogen hasn’t really changed his character and there really is no reason to. He’s great at improvisation, always ready with a quip in the chamber and knows how to play off other actors comedically. He smokes pot, gets in hijinks, gets drunk and makes lots of jokes. No reason to stray away from that formula. He has done enough comedic performances to make them a little different each time. I liked that he was more or less playing the straight man to the crazier frat, the married father trying to be the cool guy in front of young kids.
The last person I would expect to go off against Seth Rogen in a crude comedy would be Zac Efron. I like many others never really cared for High School Musical and wondered how he would transition to other more main stream movies that don’t rely on bad music and screaming teens. But he has calmly walked into the role like it was tailor made for him and it more than likely was. He has the perfect look and charisma to be a fraternity president, someone that exudes all flash and no substance like all presidential roles. But beneath the chiseled exterior is a person with real feelings that give the role that much needed depth. He was funny and charming while being a jerk at the same time. The comedic paring of a schlubby more responsible guy and attractive dope recently worked incredibly well before with 21 Jump Street. And I am still surprised at how funny Channing Tatum was in that role. While not being a standard antagonist, He shows some villainous ways when engaging with Rose and Seth. I liked how they showed how callous he could be while at the same time make him still be liked. He did exceptionally well working against a comedic heavyweight but the compliments also have to go to the director and writer, but without either of those components his performance would not have worked so well.
Rose Byrne also had a surprisingly funny performance but that’s based on her work in primarily dramatic fare. She has proven her comedic mettle going off against Russell Brand in Get Him to the Greek and a group of comedic women in Bridesmaids. So great in both that it’s surprising that she hasn’t done more noteworthy comedies. She is equal parts sweet and in control as the wife to Seth Rogen's character. At no time did she feel out of place with Rogen and it really was a perfect paring. Dave Franco played a great companion and friend to Zac Efron as the more sensible and intelligent vice president. The declaration love they showed to each other was the sweetest thing shown on screen. While they may be different, you could really see the loving brotherly bond between them that goes beyond a fraternity pact. It’s great that he is getting more roles in the Apatow family showing that he didn’t get by with being related to a famous older brother. He has just as much comedic talent as James. The sleeper role goes to Ike Barinholtz as friend and coworker to Rogen. He was a more ridiculous character to Rogen’s more reserved and it worked out great. He hasn’t been in many movies worth mentioning, more famous for his work on MadTV and The Mindy Project. This is a shame since he’s been around for so long and is a good reliable hand for any comedic role.
Nicolas Stoller as director has a recent string of comedic hits so it’s no surprise that he landed another direct hit. Over the past 6 years he has proven he can mold a simple story around complex characters and relationships with a heavy comedic influence which is the model that Judd Apatow has crafted to perfection. I have always loved how he deals with the female characters in his movies. They are always different with varying emotions, often times hard to predict. This can be rare given how stereotypical females as well as males can be portrayed in numerous comedies. He always has the right amount of heart, crudeness and downright ridiculous that it doesn’t feel tired or overdone. He has a great command over a large cast of different actors and knows where to put them in specific situations to not have them becoming annoying.
While watching the movie, I never thought I would feel bad for the frat that is battling a married couple. But by the end, you see the big picture and you can’t help but feel sorry for them. It paints a fraternity in such an honest light that it’s a little depressing. They get humanized along the way in ways you wouldn’t expect from an antagonist. It’s refreshing to see a scenario like this play out and subvert past crude classics set in college. It clearly takes much of its influence from Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds but doesn’t paint one side as assholes like the Omegas or the Alpha Betas. It presented the class war fare struggle in a different way that needed to be told. When it comes to movies like this, they always do something that’s never been done by a fraternity or in a party whether it be toga parties or diving into kiddie pools filled with alcohol. What they do here is downright insane and possibly one of the coolest things that’s been done in a movie with a frat or a party. Another one of my favorite scenes was the dance off between Rogen and Efron which sounds so illogical but makes sense when you know Rogen goes all out no matter what. But the fight scene between the two takes the cake. It’s one of the most hilarious fight scenes I’ve seen in ages. It just gets more funny and unpredictable as it goes on. I see more naked Seth Rogen than I thought I would. You really see how hairy he is and you can’t help but laugh.
I am a sucker for crude, gross R rated comedies and is a genre that should not be taken seriously in the slightest. Far too many people expect too much instead of just letting it go and enjoy it. Neighbors is predictable in some places but it’s a formula that has worked for decades in previous films. It knows its target audience and is able to hit the right comedic targets. It’s been a while since a great movie involving frats came about and I’m glad that it did. While I don’t rank it among the class of Animal House or Revenge of the Nerds, it stands alone and makes its own mark in the genre. And it presents a clear cut ending for everybody which I wholly welcome. Four keg stands out of five.