One thing that I’m noticing more often now that I’m older is that a lot of teenagers like to keep their distance away from adults, which is a lot easier thanks to online social media trends.
At first I thought about blaming newer technology, but then I realized that as a teenager, I too wasn’t too fond about getting scolded at by adults, informing me that I’m being too loud or distant from them. I think that any adult can agree that they’ve had some sort of rebellious phase where adults were the enemy. Even though I was on good terms with my parents and teachers, I could think of several people that I felt were “just being old” when making my life miserable.
High school and young college kids develop this kind of attitude for one reason: fear. They know that their days as a kid are almost over and when they look at the most stern authority figures, they see the people that they don’t want to become.
Once you pass into adulthood, you are now aware that aging is inevitable and you will grow old one day. So as an adult, it’s up to you to make each day extraordinary, allowing for new memories, rather than living with nostalgia. Neighbors is about the fine line between childhood and adulthood.
Matt Radner (played by Seth Rogen) and his wife Kelly (played by Rose Byrne) have just settled into a new home along with their newborn baby girl, Stella. They’ve settled into the idea of suburbia – a picket fence home surrounded by similar houses, a 9-to-5 job for Matt, and Kelly staying home to care for Stella. It may seem simple but there’s nothing wrong with simple. Their lives couldn’t be better, until they get new neighbors, a fraternity.
Delta-Psi moves in next door to Matt (we later find out that they accidentally burned downed their last home on campus) along with their leaders Teddy Sanders (played by Zac Efron) and Pete Regazolli (played by Dave Franco).
At first, Matt and Kelly try to play it cool by telling them to keep the music down and not getting too rowdy. But a call to the police after a night of too much partying leads to a war between the two homes.
Matt tries to damage the frat’s plumbing, but a quick sale from the fraternity (I won’t give it away as the product is too funny) garners enough money to have everything repaired.
Matt and Rose try to stir up a dispute between Teddy and Pete and that leads to an interesting conversation about them leaving college soon.
Neighbors is the type of movie where you expect one character to be more interesting than the other but it turns out to be the other way around. I like Seth Rogen. I assumed he would be playing a more complex person that would have him figuring out that line between having fun and being responsible. But while it’s not a bad performance, it’s a typical Seth Rogen performance we’ve seen him in before. The real star here is Zac Efron.
That’s right. The frat house party animal is a more interesting character than a new father. Zac Efron takes a real turn here, playing both a cocky arrogant college student that just wants to have fun but also a scared individual that has never planned ahead. With the way it’s written, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was purposely written so that the story can sum up the career of Efron, take a jab here and there on his personal life, and give him advice on what to do next.
Now as a story, Neighbors is a feud comedy that I know I’ve seen before. But there are some differences here. In a 1980s college film, the frat house guys would have been the heroes, so it’s a nice change to see them as the villains. But they are also fun villains to watch.
Matt and Rose may be the responsible ones here, but they’re not total kill joys. They too get some good lines and even have some fun at the parties. What I do have trouble with are some of the side characters. I hardly remember them and most of them come off as too mean-spirited. Plus, there’s a fight between Matt and Rose that could have been cut as it goes nowhere. There’s nothing wrong with having an 80-minute comedy.
I’ll give this four Delta-Psi letters out of five. It’s a fun movie to watch, though it could have been a greater story had they given Rogen more to do with his character rather than have him play himself. I know the guy can act. Neighbors will make for plenty of late night screenings in both frat houses and living rooms.
Robert T. Nickerson is a film critic. His work can be seen at mastermindfilmproductions.com.