May 12, 2014

  Neighbors lives next to Animal House in a sometimes witty comedy.


Grade:  B

Director: Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall)

Screenplay: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien

Cast: Seth Rogen (This is the End), Rose Byrne (The Internship)

Rating: R

Runtime: 96 min.

by John DeSando

“Do you know how many bj's they promised me? Infinite bj's. They promised me infinite bj's.” Assjuice (Craig Roberts)

The eternal struggle between bros and maturity, as in the case of Neighbors between frat boys (lead by a chiseled Zac Efron’s Jimmy) and a 30-something couple (Mac and Kelly Radner, played by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) in the hands of veteran comedy director Nicholas Stoller is not endangered and is witty enough with some redeeming social commentary.

The above quote suggests the low-brow jokes, as a gay pledge accepts any humiliation to get, well, you know what. The serious part is that the frats have moved in next to the newly-suburban couple, anticipating the horror all of us might feel when those new neighbors move in.

As Seth Rogen has commented, not since Animal House and the first part of Old School has the raunchy frat boy comedy had a clever comedic revival. Along the way to as many outrageous jokes as the writers can devise are some truths that emerge such as the need to chuck youthful indiscretions for the responsibilities, and joys, a baby can bring. That Mac and Kelly love each other and their new baby is regularly confirmed by their teamwork in subverting the next door frat house and by their abiding sexual interest in each other.

Rogen and Byrne are good enough on their verbal give and take that I am faintly reminded of some fine screwball dynamics between, for instance, Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. There’s enjoyable repartee that saves Neighbors from being just a low-rent beer bong sexploitation.Those witty moments are too few, for the film is dominated by such pranks as determining the originator of beer pong, making plaster-cast dildos, or painfully watching Mac have to milk Kelly, whose breasts have become full from drinking while the milking machine disabled. It’s amusing to see how far the raunchy can go but not nearly laugh inducing enough.

For those young people facing the adult world of responsibility, Neighbors can serve as a cautionary tale about the transition, for the lead couple struggles between slipping back into rude immaturity (bringing baby to a rave?) and accepting adult responsibility. Besides, recent research shows that people who argue with their neighbors may die 3 times earlier than their peers who don’t argue. Maybe that’s the real lesson.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at