Director: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and Rose Byrne
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
Seeing the success that Channing Tatum had in films such as 21 Jump Street and Magic Mike, Zac Efron and his agent have clearly decided that the way for him to break out of that heartthrob hunk image is to mock it. Efron is not the revelation that Tatum was, however Neighbors continues to suggest that he has much depth to him and is an acting talent that deserves respect and recognition. I’ll admit it, I was disappointed not to see him cast in Star Wars Episode VII. There are times however when Efron does seem to be trying a bit hard and he doesn’t seem quite as natural in this skin as he did in the High School Musical films. It is when his character starts, ‘really villaining out’ as his right hand man Dave Franco says, that Efron’s comedic sensibilities really come out. With the film perhaps better served if it had given Efron more crazy to work with, rather than the dumb dude routine that worked so well for Tatum.
However it is not just Efron who shows he may have a future in comedy. Rose Byrne continues to demonstrate her versatility, although she is not quite as wickedly funny in this as she was in Bridesmaids. Whilst Seth Rogen does your standard Seth Rogen performance in what is your standard Seth Rogen movie. Considering how much people have hounded the likes of Michael Cera for doing the same thing, it is a testament to Rogen’s likability and star power that he has never had to play more than one character. It is when this film takes aim at this Rogen character and the movies he inhabits where it is at its most cutting. At one point Rogen’s character laments Byrne and says how he should be the one who gets to act like a child and she should be the responsible one. It is a scene that cuts right to the heart of the man-child, ‘bro’ American comedies that this seemed to be another entry into. With the film rather heavy handedly yet no less thankfully having a theme of the importance of growing up. With both primary characters holding back from the next step in their journey to responsibility and maturity.
Behind the camera Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) displays a greater degree of visual inventiveness than he has in the past. With him clearly having a lot of fun with the neon drenched frat parties and giving this film a certain level of dynamism that slightly sets it apart from the rather visually authorless state of most Hollywood comedies. What is most important in a film of this kind however are the laughs and Neighbors delivers. Whilst in the wake of 22 Jump Street, and I’d argue A Million Ways to Die in the West, it can’t claim to be the comedy of the summer, it is still a very entertaining and satisfying time at the movies. However besides from a couple of visual gags and one or two lines, I don’t know how much of this film I’ll recall let’s say a year from now. I am writing this review a good few months after seeing it and am struggling to recall a lot of the material. The amount of times I’ll revisit it and be rewarded for those revisits is low to zero, and it is that quality which ultimately separates the good comedies from the great ones.