Neighbors reminded me of the 70s and 80s heyday of National Lampoon sex comedies. Its only mission is to string together as many dick jokes as possible for ninety minutes and gracefully send you on your way.
Free from the James L. Brooks-inspired Judd Apatow school of dramedy that mixes crass humor with heartfelt everyday human conflict, which has been serving more and more bloated and scattershot projects lately (This is 40), Neighbors is a relentlessly un-PC ride that strings together just enough plot and emotional theme to barely qualify as a bona fide feature film as opposed to a heavy-R-rated sit-com.
I must stress that Apatow’s name is nowhere near the credits. He’s not even an executive producer on the movie. But his protégé Seth Rogen is the star and its directed by Nicholas Stoller, who previously helmed the Apatow produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him To The Greek and The Five-Year Engagement, all of which carry his particular blend of drama and comedy.
Neighbors, on the other hand, embraces the proud relentless silliness of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s howlingly entertaining This is The End and even though it’s not as funny or as insane, manages to bring on the laughs, now with twice the phallic humor! Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are a married couple with an infant daughter living in boring suburban splendor. They are worried that their impulsive youthful energy is behind them as they try their best to inject some excitement into their predictable lives, which includes attempting to bring their baby to a rave. Right off the bat, we’re dealing with exaggerated caricatures more at home in an 80s comedy, which would be a detriment to the film if it didn’t stick to that tone all the way through.
On the surface, they look like reasonable people, yet who in their right mind would think a rave is a suitable place for an infant? Or a movie theater for that matter, yet that didn’t stop the couple in front of me from bringing their baby to an R-rated comedy. I guess it does happen in real life, but don’t expect me to root for either couple.
When a fraternity headed by douchemeister Teddy (Zac Efron) moves in next door and disrupts the Radners’ calm yet boring life, a battle begins between the two houses, physically and ideologically. As we’re bombarded with one delightfully crass joke after the other, some of them brilliant (A frat brother’s ability to achieve instant erection is a wonder to behold), the story could have devolved into a more generic and superficial comedy but the overall themes of the married couple pining for the youthful energy of their hatred for the frat house and the frat members’ looming journey into adulthood keeps the pacing fresh long enough to maintain the audience’s interest.
In 2008, my wife and I had to actually deal with living upstairs from an apartment rented by a group of freshmen bimbos who partied hard into the early hours of the morning. The constant stress and sleep deprivation that eventually forced us to move out was more suitable for a horror movie closer in spirit to Roman Polanski’s The Tenant than a brisk sex comedy.
Perhaps Neighbors is well aware of the real life ramification of that kind of stress, as well as the possible real results of the sometimes criminally violent choices the characters make against one another that it maintains an approach of exaggerated, light comedy. It will provide to be a goofy, disgusting, crass, irreverent and very funny distraction over the weekend and not much more. That being said, if you have a dick joke tolerance of 200 and under per feature film, you might want to skip this one.