Neighbors (R)

 
 
Zac Efron and Dave Franco are two frat brothers making life hell for a married couple in ‘Neighbors.’
Zac Efron and Dave Franco are two frat brothers making life hell for a married couple in ‘Neighbors.’
UNIVERSAL PICTURES

Movie Info

Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Ike Barinholtz, Lisa Kudrow.

Director: Nicholas Stoller.

Screenwriter: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien.

A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 95 minutes. Vulgar language, nudity, sexual situations, violence, drug use, mayhem, all-around bad behavior. Playing at area theaters.


rrodriguez@MiamiHerald.com

There’s a meaty subtext in Neighbors, a raunchy comedy about a fraternity led by Zac Efron and Dave Franco that wages war on the married couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) who lives next door. Look past all the penis jokes (this movie sets a record) and gross-out gags (lactating breasts in dire need of milking), and you’ll find an unexpectedly honest portrait of the moment in life — usually the early 30s — when we lose interest in the bacchanal pursuits of the young and embrace the quieter but equally rewarding pleasures of adulthood.

That’s not meant to imply there’s anything particularly thoughtful or serious about Neighbors, a movie filled with so many lewd sex toys they practically deserve their own screen credit. But director Nicholas Stoller ( Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five-Year Engagement) keeps the 95-minute picture moving at a brisk pace (take that, Judd Apatow!), and screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien give their cartoonish characters unexpected depths and resources.

For example, in practically any other comedy of this kind, the character of the wife, Kelly, would have been relegated to a disapproving nag, asking her husband Mac to stop behaving like a child and make peace with the hooligans. But Byrne tears into the role with a ferocity she hadn’t displayed before, proving to be just as adept as the boys at wreaking havoc (a scene in which she tricks one of the frat boys to make out with his best bud’s girlfriend is a standout). Byrne is also the center of the movie’s subtle dramatic center, conveying the loneliness and boredom of a former career woman turned mom who doesn’t know what to do with herself now that she’s stuck at home watching over her newborn daughter. Her love for her child is never in question, but the film’s honest depiction of the difficulty of her transition is refreshing.

Rogen does what he normally does: Ingest a lot of drugs, crack wise and charm you with his shaggy-bear appeal. A lot of his lines sound ad-libbed (when he first sees the chiseled Efron in a tank top during move-in day, Mac says “He looks like something a gay guy made in a lab”). But Rogen gives a real performance as a father and husband momentarily seduced by how fun the crazy old days were who ultimately decides that stuff was all in the past, and these obnoxious college brats must be dispatched by whatever means necessary.

Neighbors doesn’t avoid the third-act sentimentality that often creeps into Hollywood comedies. But at least the film doesn’t wallow in it, and even though the outrageous party scenes can’t come close to the you-are-there debauchery of Project X, the picture does have a lot of lewd, gasp-inducing laughs.

The most intriguing thing about Neighbors, though, is Efron, an actor who rose up from the Disney ranks and established a foothold as a dreamboat in romantic dramas and comedies. In Neighbors, Efron lets the darkness show: As the neighborhood feud grows out of control, and he threatens Mac by saying “I’m going to kill you,” the line is more chilling than funny, because Efron has done such a good job portraying a disappointed and scared young man who knows being president of his frat house will be the highlight of his life. As hard as he may try to hide it, he knows this will be as good as it gets, which is why the turf war means so much to him. Efron makes you believe he’s capable of anything. Neighbors is rude, brazen and merrily offensive, and the movie mines the homoerotic undertones of fraternities to fine (if lowbrow) comic effect. But Efron, of all people, gives the film a curious edge: Here is an actor who continues to surprise.

Read more Reeling with Rene Rodriguez stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Magic in the Moonlight’:</span> Colin Firth is a stage magician trying to disprove the abilities of an acclaimed psychic (Emma Stone).

    Magic in the Moonlight (PG-13)

    The inherent problem in cranking out a movie (sometimes two!) every year, as Woody Allen has been doing for the last 34 years, is that some of them are inevitably going to be dogs. Does someone have a gun to the filmmaker’s head that forces him to proceed with half-baked, joyless comedies such as Magic in the Moonlight instead of tossing bad ideas out and starting fresh? This is, at best, a 20-minute TV episode extended to feature length, and the stretch marks show. Boy, do they show. That’s practically all you can see, really.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Guardians of the Galaxy’:</span> Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Chris Pratt form an unlikely team of space-jockey superheroes.

    Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13)

    Watching the zippy, ebullient Guardians of the Galaxy, you wonder “Why can’t all comic-book movies be this much fun?”

  •  
Dad (Ethan Hawke, right) plays around with his son (Ellar Coltrane) in a scene from “Boyhood.”

    Boyhood (R)

    Contrary to most dramas, which tend to dwell on traumatic or seismic events, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood argues that life is a compilation of small, everyday moments, an accumulation of the feelings and thoughts and emotions we start to gather from the time we are children. Shot over the span of 12 years, with the cast getting together for a few days annually to shoot some scenes, the movie charts the growth of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from the ages of 5 to 18. Mason has an older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter) and he has two loving parents, Mom (Patricia Arquette) and Dad (Ethan Hawke), who are divorced and live apart. Their relationship can be contentious at times, but they both care deeply for their kids.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category