Weekend at the Movies – Neighbors
Think of the worst neighbor you’ve ever had. Was it a fraternity house? No? Then you’ve got nothin’ on Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne in their new comedy, where Zac Efron and his party-hardy brothers move in next-door.
In Neighbors, Mac and Kelly’s (Rogen and Byrne’s) quiet suburban life with their incredibly cute baby (seriously, so cute) is turned into an all-night kegger by the incredibly handsome (seriously, so handsome) Teddy (Efron) and his Delta Psi fraternity brothers. There’s no way these two worlds could coexist, is there? No, of course there isn’t. And that means we get to watch them go to war.
Courteous is off this week, giving Savage the unopposed say. Let's hope he doesn't abuse it.
The Savage Take
Neighbors is a much smarter film than its trailers let on. Beneath the promised prank war between rowdy college kids and square adults is an affecting movie about the fear of growing up—or, to be more precise, the fear of what the characters think growing up requires.
Mac and Kelly are afraid the fire of their youth has gone out, and the Delta Psi boys are the perfect funhouse mirror to show them just how uncool and old they are. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that their first attempt to introduce themselves and ask the frat house to keep it down spirals into a drug and booze-fueled all-nighter.
Just like that, Mac and Kelly have done it. They’ve achieved the impossible. They can act like kids and get wasted and it’s fine because they had their baby monitor always on hand. And when they don’t want to go wild? No problem, because the fraternity agreed to keep the volume down. Of course, the fraternity was lying.
Hilarious escalation, and a heavy dose of heart.
Across the property line, President Teddy’s fear of facing the real world after being a college god is so obvious that it’s comically pointed out by a fellow frat member with a minor in Psychology. Teddy could easily have been written as a monster with no purer purpose than to make his neighbors miserable, but he’s actually a relatable and likable character.
On the surface he sees Mac and Kelly as a threat to his collegiate swan song, but on a deeper level he sees them as symbols of everything he fears about adulthood. He’s terrified of becoming some old guy with a kid trying to act cool around young, beautiful people with their whole lives ahead of them. Zac Efron, to his genuine credit, does a damned good job of playing a guy trying desperately to mask that fear with juvenile pranks and reckless partying.
What’s interesting is that we see very little of Mac and Kelly’s daughter while all this is going on. It’s a clever move by the filmmakers and serves to reinforce the idea that, after a certain point, the couple isn’t so much concerned with their kid’s welfare as their own happiness. But even as their conflict with Delta Psi infuses their life with new excitement, it eventually exposes major cracks in their relationship. Surprisingly heavy stuff for what could have been just a gross-out slapstick comedy.
Neighbors is one of my favorite kinds of comedies, where actions have consequences, and those consequences, like the jokes themselves, snowball through the movie in an organic and hilarious escalation. All that, and a heavy dose of heart.
Where Do We Go From Here?
S: Want another surprisingly great comedy with adults acting like kids? Check out 21 Jump Street. We can only hope that this summer's sequel lives up.