New Seth Rogen film takes him one step beyond fraternity days
Neighbors: Anti-Heroes for Everyone
by Sandra Olmsted
Director Nicholas Stoller tackles another perpetual adolescence movie with Neighbors, a frat house movie with none of the charm or amusing characters of the granddaddy of all frat films, Animal House. In Neighbors, the main characters aren’t even the frat boys, but the neighbors to the frat house, Mac and Kelly Radner ( Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, respectively), a young couple barely passed their own college year and struggling to enjoy first-time parenthood. With a new baby in the house and a mortgage, a fraternity buying the house next door is hardly good news, and predictably, they handle it all wrong, presumably because of their own mixed feelings about getting older and having conflicting responsibilities and desires.
Meanwhile, the Delta Psi frat boys, lead by Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), plan ways to get their picture on the frat’s Wall of Fame by having the most outrageous rager ever, and begin practicing for it immediately after moving into their new digs. Mac and Kelly think the best way to control the situation is to stop by the party and show that they are still cool and deserve “respect”; unfortunately, their plan only leads to an intimacy with Teddy and requests to never call the cops on them and to contact him or Pete first. Soon, the partying next door is preventing sleep in the Radner house on week nights, and repeated calls to the frat go unanswered, so Mac calls the police. Tipped off, the frat boys prevent a police crackdown and instigate all-out warfare with the Radners. They start by helping all the neighbors with odd jobs while pranking, hazing, and annoying the Radners.
Meanwhile, Dean Carol Gladstone (Lisa Kudrow) only worries about spinning the headlines regarding anything related to the college. Finally, an incident forces her to put Delta Psi on probation, and the Radners rejoice and plot with friends to set up the frat to get shut down because of additional “strikes” again them. As the end of the year closes in, frat vice president Pete becomes more interesting in job fairs and the future than longtime bro Teddy, who is stuck in a college mindset. The new internal conflict in the house adds a little more gravity to the characters’ motivation, but in truth, the desires to have that one “awesomest” party and to get revenge on the Radners only makes the frat boys seem stupider and more unlikable. In fact, the notion of anti-heroes has been taken so far in this movie, that none of the characters, including the Radners, are sympathetic or likable enough that an audience should cheer for the Radners to win back their neighborhood or the frat boys to get revenge.
By trying to please every audience, Stoller and screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen & Brendan O’Brien have craft a film without a cohesive center. Many of the juvenile, scatological gags go beyond poor taste even for this movie, such as the baby chewing on a used condom and objectifying Kelly’s milk-engorged breasts. However, for the audience that doesn’t care, the gross-out humor coupled with a hollow attempt at a message will equal a briefly enjoyable and a thankfully soon forgotten experience. Neighbors, a Universe Pictures release, runs 96 long minutes and is rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout. Neighbors opens in theaters May 9. (More of Olmsted’s reviews are available at <www.thecinematicskinny.com>.)
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