Neighbors is a comedy that is content to drift from plot hole to plot hole as long as it gets its big set pieces in. The only difference is that the comedy which pits fraternity against paternity has a couple not ready to be conformist parents. One of the couples arguments is about who gets to be the Kevin James character in the relationship, the one person who gets to do and say stupid things and the other who gets to be the gentle supporting wife. “There’s some Kevin James in me,” Kelly the new mother played by Rose Byrne says, signaling a slight seismic shift in the way female supporting character is usually portrayed. This is a comedy that wants to be Animal House mixed with Judd Apatow, combining frat hijinks and boundary pushing body humor.
Neighbors is all surface and no subtext. Nothing connects. The frat house which moved in next door could be the parent’s enemy or friend depending on where the next funny sequence heads to. Zac Efron is the perfect id character for this push-pull conflict– attractive and blissfully free of conflict and responsibility. He is everything they think they want but not anything they need to be right now. The baby and its material entourage is constantly calling them back.
Rogen and Byrne fumble their way through the wannabe initiation, the frat-pat war, overwhelmed with doubt and knowledge that they are too far removed from everything to be as cool as they want to be. [Neighbors](movie:401406) in the end reassures everyone watching that the conventional life is entirely worthwhile and rewarding enough. All the rest is a dream that can’t be sustained. Embrace your child and wife and share the playground.