A Trip to Blockbuster: Neighbors

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[I’m attempting to see as many big-budget Hollywood films as I can this summer, and writing about them as soon as I’ve had a month or so to reflect.]

The thing we want more than anything in life is to be left alone. Rich people prove this when they move into mansions. When was the last time you heard a rich person say to his or her real estate agent, “This is great, but you know what would be really great? Some strangers living around me to go with it.” No one asks for that. Strangers could be anything. They could be serial murderers. They could be super conceited. They could be the kind of people who promise to feed your fish while you’re away but only actually do it one time. That’s why rich people choose lavish iron gates and big lawns in favor of actual, living people: the risk/reward ratio is weighted immensely in favor of the former.

This is all to say that the film Neighbors doesn’t leave me with a lot to write about. This isn’t a bad thing. It was and remains an ideal comedy to start the summer, an assured assembly of recent R-rated comedy beats that covers the majority of the Apatow checklist without any aspirations of mixing up the formula. Light and breezy as the May wind, Neighbors relies on strong performances to make its sketch-like nature memorable, and on that front, it mostly succeeds.

Seth Rogen stars alongside Rose Byrne as new parents Mac and Kelly, respectively, whose lives would be tough enough as it is without a frat house moving in next door. But that’s exactly what happens. As we’ve become conditioned to expect what kinds of Seth Rogen-y things Seth Rogen will do in a Seth Rogen movie, it’s inevitable that Mac will mellow out and roll some joints with the kids at some point. To writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien’s credit, this is addressed almost immediately, in one of the film’s many party scenes that screams, ‘well this was fun to film.’ It’s not until the end of the first act that Mac and Kelly realize, hey, maybe we can’t party that hard every night what with our infant child and all. From there, Neighbors turns into a series of escalating and amusing one-upsmanship between Mac and Zac Efron’s fraternity leader, Teddy Sanders (great frat guy name).

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Efron steals the show here, having grown substantially since he was the singing kid adorning the wall atop my creepy college roommate’s bed. Along with Dave Franco, looking less and less like the Eli to James’ Peyton than we ever could have expected, Efron displays comedic chops that assimilate him quite naturally into the Apatow crew. He even manages to provide the slightest bit of pathos to the college senior character who’s not ready to give up his life of partying – at least not yet.

Franco matches him stride for stride, mimicking his older brother’s gift for comedic timing without the sometimes overbearing sense of presence that seems to overpower many of James Franco’s films. The highlight of the film is a back and forth between Efron and Franco in which the two friends reconcile with numerous variations of the old adage “bro’s before ho’s,” eventually culminating in a desperate, “John Madden before… Jasmine. From Aladdin!”

Neighbors may have worked better with someone other than the overtly familiar Rogen in the lead – doesn’t Bill Hader need work? – but it’s hard to nitpick against a summer comedy that promises you nothing more than laughs for an hour and a half and delivers, at the very least, guffaws. Therefore, I’ve no choice but to bust out my

ARBITRARY BLOCKBUSTER STAR RATING

I give the film Neighbors, directed by Nicholas Stoller, 7 and 3/8 stars.

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So what’s the best blockbuster of the summer so far?

1. Neighbors

2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (this list will look more impressive once I see more movies, I’m sure.)

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