I am not now, nor have I ever been, a fan of gross comedies, but this is not to say that I fail to realize there is a huge market for such films. And although I prefer funny movies like the Peter Sellers “Pink Panther” series, “Liar Liar” and “Bruce Almighty” with Jim Carrey, and most of the Mel Brooks films (“Young Frankenstein” is a classic.), I certainly respect the opinion of those who prefer movies rife with scatological sight gags and tasteless sexual innuendoes.
That being said, let’s take a look at “Neighbors,” the new hit comedy starring Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, and Zac Efron. This is one of those films some people will find offensive and tasteless while others will think it is hilariously funny.
Rogen and Byrne play Mac and Kelly Radner, a young couple living in the suburbs with their baby daughter, Stella (played by twins Elise and Zoey Vargas). They are the first in their group of friends to own a home and have a child, and they are still adjusting to the rigors of parenthood. They love the neighborhood in which they live, but that all changes when the house next door to them goes on the market and ends up being purchased by the Delta Psi Beta fraternity, a group notorious for throwing loud and wild parties.
As Mac and Kelly watch their new neighbors unload the moving van, they realize they must establish some ground rules so the noise from the inevitable parties doesn’t drive them crazy. The fraternity’s head honcho is the hunky Teddy Sanders (Efron) of whom Mac observes: “He looks like something a gay guy designed in laboratory.”
Being people of action, Mac and Kelly decide to make the first move with their neighbors, and they take Stella next door for a visit. After exchanging the obligatory pleasantries with Teddy, they demonstrate their open-mindedness and good will by offering him a freshly rolled joint as Mac says magnanimously, “Anyway we just wanted to let you guys know that in this neighborhood we don’t keep off the grass.” Then they respectfully request that the guys “keep it down” when they are partying, and Teddy says if they have any problems to bring them to him instead of calling the cops first. After reaching what appears to be an amicable agreement, the Radners return to their cozy home.
Later that night a party erupts next door, but when Mac and Kelly walk over to ask for a reduction in the noise level, they end up joining in the festivities. Interestingly enough while her parents are carousing in the frat house, Stella is home alone asleep in her crib. Well, at least Kelly has the baby monitor with her.
The next evening when things once again become unbearably loud at the Delta Psi house, Mac violates his promise and places what he thinks is an anonymous call to the police. When the officer arrives on the scene and Teddy asks who complained, the policeman quickly points to Mac, whose name popped up on caller ID at the police station. And the war between the Radners and the brothers of Delta Psi begins.
“Neighbors” is a prototypical raunchy comedy rife with profanity (more than 30 F-bombs), sex, nudity, drug (alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine) use, and gross sight gags that include a fight with dildos, two guys sword fighting with their urine streams, and a baby’s attempt to eat a condom. Thus, if you like this kind of comedy, you will be in heaven.
Whoever told Rogen he is funny has a screw loose because as a comedian, at least in this film, he lays a gigantic egg. Nothing is worse than watching a guy who isn’t funny but who thinks he is, and Rogen is a prime example of that in this film. Byrne fares a little bit better as his foul-mouthed wife, and Efron is relatively effective as the stereotypical frat guy. Actually the adorable Vargas twins are by far the best thing about this movie, but unfortunately they aren’t on the screen nearly enough.
Just as the makers of horror films seem to equate the fright factor with how many gallons of bogus blood can be spilled on the screen, so the writers of R-rated comedies seem to think a plethora of profanity translates into hilarious humor. Although such language does not offend me, I do believe that those who made “Neighbors” overstepped the boundaries of good taste and decency when they decided to include using the N-word in a reference to President Obama.
If there is any kind of message buried beneath all of the partying and obscenity in the film, Rogen tried to explain it in the film’s production notes.
“Mac and Kelly are the first of their friends to have bought a house and have a baby and don’t have a large frame of reference for how the whole adulthood thing works. You see early on that they’re struggling with the fact that they can’t go out and party anymore with their friends and keep asking themselves when things will get back to normal. They haven’t quite come to grips with the fact that once you have a baby, that doesn’t happen again.
“They are a couple with a new baby who are struggling to maintain their youth, so when the frat moves next door they think that it might be cool and that maybe they can have it all: be responsible parents and drop in next door to dance and hang out. They quickly realize that it’s an impossible situation, and when they call the cops, it draws a line in the sand and hell breaks loose.”
With the exception of the twins, a funny segment involving automobile air bags, and Lisa Kudrow’s portrayal of a college dean, I found little to like about “Neighbors,” but as I said at the outset, this is not my kind of comedy. Therefore, I am going to break from tradition and award this film two final scores, the first from me and the second for how I think those who enjoy such comedies may rate it. Because I smiled and/or chuckled only twice during the film it gets a lowly two, but because I think it will really appeal to a certain audience (Check out its record at the box office.), it gets a predictive eight. However, if there is a “Neighbors 2,” I definitely won’t be visiting.