“Neighbors” review: Billed as Efron vs. Rogen, Rose Byrne is the real star

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, May 28, 2014

by Lauren Bradshaw

Neighbros… errrr… “Neighbors,” the hilarious new film directed by Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), is not the film I was expecting.

I always try to go into a movie with an open-mind, but when a movie’s trailer illustrates the lascivious behavior of a fraternity, I was expecting just that — your typical raunchy comedy. Of course, there is a lot of smutty humor, including a more “X-rated” kind of fundraiser and penises galore, but there is also a lot more to this movie; instead of the frat-star bros being the heroes, they are actually the villains. Their behavior is not glorified, but is instead eye-roll inducing. There is also equality in the way both the female and male character in a relationship are portrayed. With this different take on the typical adult comedy, combined with a show-stopping performance from Rose Byrne, it’s easy to see why “Neighbors” is boasting a “certified fresh” rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

“Neighbors” centers on Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and his wife Kelly (Rose Byrne). The Radners are the established adults in their friend group. They have a happy marriage, a new baby and have just moved into a new house. Everything seems to be going well, except their responsibilities preclude them from going out and having as much fun as they once did. After all, a baby can’t go to a rave, right?

Fear not, the party soon comes to them in the form of Delta Psi, a fraternity known for their historic contributions to partying. That’s right, to the horror of the little family (and pretty much everyone else in America), a bunch of party-animal frat boys, led by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) move next door; Mac and Kelly can tell this is not going to end well. At first, they try to politely and casually (read: hilariously) ask the fraternity to “keep it down.”

They even try to be the cool adults and party with their neighbros. When the partying doesn’t stop, however, the Radners resort to other means. The first includes calling the police. Because this makes their neighbors even more vengeful and angry, the Radners must take matters into their own hands. They decide to sabotage the fraternity house, and brothers themselves, so their terrible neighbor problem will be over for good. However, this plan is easier said than done, especially when the frat decides to fight back.

Let me get this out of the way. There would be no movie without Rose Byrne. When I say she makes the movie, it is an understatement. I will buy this movie just to watch her elevate every scene she is in; the scene where she orchestrates a “bro war” is alone worth the price of admission. Of course, the rest of the cast did a great job too. Rogen is his typical nerdy, yet charming and hilarious self and has incredible chemistry with Byrne. When I think about the movie, it isn’t the jokes that stick out in my mind, it is the chemistry and relationship between Byrne and Rogen’s characters. Efron is also great, playing a borderline-likeable (continuously shirtless) king of the douches. I wonder how much he had to act? But let’s be real, Byrne is the real standout.

Apart from the performances, I love that the film features a married couple actually having fun together and loving each other.

It’s ridiculous that this even needs to be mentioned, but I also appreciate that there are none of those typical movie relationship stereotypes (shrew of a wife, childlike husband). The female character is actually allowed to be, “gasp,” funny and in actuality, is the most well-written character in the film!

Additionally, Byrne and Rogen’s characters are equally grappling with their desire to still have aspects of their younger, care-free life along with the benefits of being adults with responsibilities; it isn’t just the man.

While “Neighbors” may not pass the Bechdel test, it was a woman that really made this film shine. Of course the film was raunchy and of course there were tons of scenes you wouldn’t want to watch sitting beside your parents, but these bits play second fiddle to the strong relationship at the heart of the film. I imagine “Neighbors” will do well at the box office, which will start the immediate calls for a sequel. Even if the Radners’ next lousy neighbor is Octomom, I’m in… that is, as long as I can watch Byrne and Rogen together again!

My Review: B