Director Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) has his checklist of vulgar comedy items to get through in his latest film, “Neighbors.” What started off as an idea of 30-year-olds reaching the point where they still crave fun but need the calm and quiet to function as parents provides the conundrum for the raunchy comedy.
It’s old versus young in the most basic and uncreative ways. Let’s face it, “Neighbors” is about comedian Seth Rogan (co-writer) giving his face another one-note performance and story. Combined with the sex appeal of Efron and Franco (who in reality are closer to 30 than they are to frat boys,) “Neighbors” sounds like a hit and will be for those who crave repetition. The film establishes itself quickly in a realm of impossible antics and sits there for the duration.
Kelly (Byrne) and Mac (Rogan) are trying to have sex in every room, but their baby keeps staring at them. They have the occasional illegal substance to feel young and escape the monotony of mature existence, but they fully come to realize their age when a fraternity moves next door. President Teddy Sanders (Efron) and Vice President Pete (Franco) plan to party every night, contrary to their promise to keep the noise down.
The disagreement between the two neighbors quickly escalates into calling the police, which doesn’t work; then things get nasty when one side starts physically and mentally challenging the other. Kelly and Mac are pushed to extremes when they cannot sell their house or get a peaceful night’s rest, and they will stop at nothing to get the frats out of their neighborhood.
“Neighbors” feels more like a string of vulgar scenes strung together instead of a fully functional comedy. Efron lends his muscles and good looks (“your entire body looks like an arrow pointed at your d***”) to the role, but little else. For nearly his entire career he has chosen roles that seem to suggest he is more interested in the craft.
Now, following “That Awkward Moment” and “Neighbors,” he is using his ripped body and moneymaker face to sell a less than stellar project. Efron admitted that when Rogan called him for the part, he said yes instantly. Franco, who continues to struggle in his career to find roles to challenge him as an actor, seems highly miscast and results to full backside nudity for his character’s depth.
The moments that felt the weakest in “Neighbors” mostly pertained to the script, including scenes like Mac and Kelly arguing about who more like Kevin James or discussions about which actor is played Batman better in the various films (that conversation also continued in the post Q&A at SXSW.)
The questions, from the audience to the cast and crew following the film that was admittedly “a work in progress,” were lacking. “Does anyone have any good questions,” Rogan asked the audience of more than 1,500. How do you ask questions about a film that has no meaning, value or depth? “Neighbors” will only appeal to the lowest common denominator due to its predictable factor and lack of creativity.
Final thought: Efron shows off his body and Rogan delivers the same jokes — can we get some new neighbors?
Starring: Seth Rogan, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Rose Byrne
Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor with Texas Art & Film, which is based in Galveston. More reviews are available at texasartfilm.com.