Review: NEIGHBORS (SXSW 2014)

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

I’m not going to make any pretenses that this film offers a story that is particularly smartly written or well conceived.  In fact, I am willing to admit that the story embraces absurdity, is rather silly, and often ignores most notions of reality. However, any movie that can have me constantly laughing and smiling will definitely earn my approval.  I’m quite certain the filmmakers of Neighbors have made no pretenses about what they have done either. They set out to make a wildly hilarious, raucuous comedy and have succeeded.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne star as Mac and Kelly Radner, a young married (with child) couple trying to adjust to their adult lives, parenthood, and aging.  Mac and Kelly feel that their life together has taking a boring and uneventful turn, but things get rather interesting and exciting when a college fraternity moves in next door.  The boys of Delta Psi, led by President Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) and his V.P. Pete (Dave Franco), love to party hard and they love to party hard often. The neighbor relations start off beautifully when the boys invite the Radners over during one of their parties, but then things get ugly rather quickly after the Radners decide to call the police and complain about the constant late-night noise during some of the fraternity’s other parties.

With consistent hilarity thanks to superb comedic performances by the cast, and to the writing by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, Neighbors is a must see for fans of wild and sometimes raunchy comedy. Nicholas Stoller’s film about warring neighbors hits all the right comedic notes in lampooning aging, partying, the college experience, and fraternity rituals, but does it lovingly. The comedic lines flow oh so beautifully from the actors’ mouths, and the dialogue and exchanges that take place in the movie are often legendary.  The cast assembled for the film is absolutely perfect.

Rose Byrne, who shined in 2011’s Bridemaids, gets to show off more of her mad comedic skills.  She and Seth Rogen share a spicy chemistry and a comic fluidity that works so splendidly in their scenes together. Rogen, who is known for his improvisational skills, unsurprisingly nails his scenes.  Also sharing excellent chemistry are Zac Efron and Dave Franco who, not only credibly portray best friends and fraternity brothers, they make one hilarious comedy duo.  Often stealing the scenes they’re in, Ike Barinholtz  and Carla Gallo, who portray Mac and Kelly’s best friends Jimmy and Paula, make some wonderful contributions to the film, garnering much of the laughter. Barinholtz, known for his sketch comedy work on MadTV gets to perform some of his uncanny celebrity impressions, and Gallo, known as a Judd Apatow regular, does what she usually does best: acting wild, kooky and crazy.

As usual, I must issue a warning. This movie will not appeal to more reserved and conservative audiences. The writers and actors do not hold back much when it comes to the language and content of the film.  Of course this warning may come across as silly considering that audiences should already be aware of this since this movie does feature a hard-partying fraternity in it. Still, I know not all of my readers have a taste for the wild and raunchy, but for those who do, this comedy will make for a highly amusing time at the cinema.




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