Naughty by nature
Funny film challenges all good taste
By Tim Pompey 05/15/2014
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout
1 hr. 36 min.
Let’s be clear about Seth Rogen and his band of merry misfits. They make dirty movies for a living, and for this they’re unapologetic. If you want anything resembling taste or class, Rogen will laugh in your face and pelt you with his dirty underwear, or worse. Much worse.
So when I say this movie is funny, take it with a grain of salt because funny for this crew always involves lots of drugs, sex, f-bombs and enough crudity to make even hardcore comedy fans blush.
But underlying all this bad behavior is a pretty simple philosophy: Humans (and guys in particular) are crude by nature. The fact that they try to hide it only makes it that much more obvious. Rogen’s goal is to rip the mask off tasteful pretentiousness to expose sex, drugs and more sex for what they are: fun and funny.
The target this time is frat house behavior. Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) are new parents to a little girl. Caught in between their own adolescence and their newfound responsibilities, they’ve settled into a nice suburban house and assumed dutiful middle-class lives.
When the house next door goes on the market, they’re waiting anxiously to see who will move in. What they get is a local college fraternity, Delta Psi Beta. The Radners are both freaked out and intrigued. Not quite over their own party days, they attempt to negotiate the noise level with frat president Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) by playing it cool and joining in the fun for a night. All with the understanding that this is a one-time deal and that the volume will eventually go down.
Unfortunately, the volume doesn’t go down and the parties keep rolling. Eventually the Radners, in violation of a promise to the fraternity, call the police. When that backfires, it becomes a war of wills to see who can run whom out of the neighborhood. From broken water pipes to bros over hoes to missing air bags, the battle gets more intense with each ensuing prank.
Notice in particular how pretty-boy Efron sheds his glittery Disney image and becomes a frat demon, and Dave Franco as Delta Psi Beta vice president Pete rivals his older brother for both comedic talent and an interesting dramatic fling.
Neighbors is not a complicated film. Write out some dialog, turn on the camera, let the hijinks ensue. You don’t need to think deep to catch any underlying innuendo. The whole film is based on timing, pushing the boundaries of disgust and letting the fireworks fly (literally).
It works as well as it does because all three of those points are kept sharp (more or less) throughout the film. Writers Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien make their feature film debuts by thoroughly mining the human foibles of young adults who can’t tell the difference between being cool and growing up. It also seems that they have more than a working knowledge of frat partying and hazing, and trust me, they do get creative with the human anatomy.
Despite all the frat party behavior, director Nicholas Stoller keeps the story moving along at a fairly brisk pace and finishes it off with a wild ending that leaves the viewer both cringing and laughing. It’s easily on a par with National Lampoon’s Animal House, except this is 2014 and this film’s depraved tastes explode any boundaries that the former may have pushed.
It’s a wild ride if you like sex and drugs and all sorts of unseemly body parts. And if you don’t care for this, Rogen and company don’t care either. You see, he’s sure that he knows that you know that secretly you really enjoy this kind of behavior, and he’s here to rub it in your face.