MRR Review: "Neighbors"

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An innocent couple with a newborn baby face unexpected difficulties after they are forced to live next to a fraternity house.
3.5

Rating: R
Length: 96 minutes
Release Date: May 9, 2014
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
Genre: Comedy

Director Nicholas Stoller knows a little something about comedy. As a writer, he penned the screenplays for "The Five-Year Engagement" and "The Muppets," and stepped behind the camera to direct "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Get Him to the Greek." Stoller teamed up with Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and a few other actors for "Neighbors," which just might be the hit comedy of the summer of 2014.

Mac (Rogen, "Knocked Up") wants nothing more than to spend time with his wife Kelly (Byrne, "Bridesmaids") and their new baby. While he looks forward to spending time in the relative peace and quiet of his home and domestic life, things don't go as he planned when a new fraternity decides to move next door. Led by Teddy (Zac Efron, "High School Musical") and Pete (Dave Franco, "21 Jump Street"), the frat brothers quickly prove that they aren't quite the best neighbors.

Though things start out well, it doesn't take long before Mac realizes that he's a little too old to party. After the frat brothers ignore his requests for a little peace and quiet, he turns to the local police department for help. When the fraternity learns that Mac was the reason behind a visit from the cops, they declare war on him and his family. As all hell breaks loose, Mac needs to step up to the plate and act like a mature and responsible adult while still getting back the peace his family so desperately needs.

Rogen had a hit on his hands the previous summer with "This Is The End," and the actor decided to bring back some of the actors from that film for his latest outing. While "Neighbors" doesn't quite measure up to "The is The End," it's easily one of the best comedies of the last year. Rogen does best when he has good chemistry with his costars, and he has that in spades with both Efron and Byrne. Though some might find it hard to believe Rogen as a lovable and affable family man, he brings his own unique and quirky sense of charm to the role. While Mac loves his family and spending time with them, he isn't above sitting down for a few drinks or a quick smoke with the frat boys.

Efron does an equally well job playing the role of a fraternity president. Though the actor had a few flops on his hands in recent years, he bounces back with this role. Teddy is the stereotypical frat boy with a few tattoos, a body he loves showing off and a bad attitude. Franco, who portrays his right hand man Pete, comes across as a slightly better actor. The younger brother of actor James Franco, Dave shines in this film just as he did in "21 Jump Street" and "Warm Bodies."

Rounding out the cast is actress Rose Byrne. Though her breakthrough role came in the comedy "Bridesmaids," the actress found herself sticking to more serious and scary fare in recent years, including a role in the horror film "Insidious" and its sequel. As the more level-headed and buttoned-up half of the marriage, she plays the "straight man" to Rogen's Mac. The actress has a few chances to shine, but she seems primarily there to break up the comedic moments between Rogen and Efron.

Director Stoller does a smart job of introducing viewers to Mac and Kelly before setting up the story. Viewers see the two at home with their child, taking a walk around the neighborhood and scenes of both Kelly staying at home with the baby and Mac working in an office job. They learn that Mac isn't necessarily happy with his position in life and that Kelly might crave a little more than being a stay at home mom. Those scenes help explain why Mac would leap at the chance to form new friendships with a group of men half his age. Though the film suffers from some slow moments early on, it eventually finds its stride when it introduces the idea of an all out war. By slowly unfolding the story, the director shows viewers why they should care about these characters and why they should pick a side.

While "Neighbors" doesn't pack the same punch as Rogen's previous outings, it's still a strong comedy with some truly funny moments. Rogen does a great job of playing a man stuck in the middle between the life he has and the life he wants, and casting Efron as a jock frat boy was a great decision. The film will make viewers laugh, and the odds are good that this will be the top comedy of the year.