Neighbors depicts the only possible scenario in which someone wouldn’t want Zac Efron to live next door. Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are a young couple who are adjusting to a new life with a baby, a house and adulthood. Finally everything has fallen into place, although they both seem to be holding onto a youthfulness for which parenthood doesn’t allow much room. They are faced with a true challenge when the house next door gets sold to a fraternity led by Teddy (Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), two well-intentioned young men who want to leave a legacy behind for their frat brothers. In order to do this, they throw the most massive, loud and outrageous parties, disturbing Mac and Kelly and the baby they’re lucky to get to sleep.
The back and forth between Mac and Kelly vs. Teddy and Pete becomes tiresome, as it is the nearest to a plot device the film has. While Neighbors can be fun at times, it lacks the heart that many other comedies of its type have managed to uphold. Its incessant crudeness makes it hard to decide which team to root for, since Mac and Kelly aren’t exactly the wholesome parents deserving of the peace and quiet they demand. They both seem to be lost in their own positions as parents, and their relationship and struggles are often endearing. However, they want to have their cake and eat it too. They desire to be the cool couple next door, want to hang out with the frat kids, and clearly still long for the youth that includes parties, sex and drugs. It makes for an interesting dynamic that these characters aren’t just the cookie-cutter all-American couple who just want to go to bed. They seem drawn and opposed to the fraternity simultaneously.
The film juxtaposes the difference between early 20- and 30-somethings, and how both yearn for the youthfulness that they are either enjoying for the last time, or from which they have recently graduated into a life of frightful responsibility. Mac and Kelly are the types of people who ten years earlier may have been a part of the same fraternity lead by Teddy and Pete, but as the film reminds us, they are only recently coming to terms with the fact that their life is headed in a new direction that is both daunting and exciting.
With its many over-the-top laugh-out-loud moments, Neighbors makes for a fun watch, though it doesn’t quite hit the levels of genius of, say, last year’s This is the End, and suffers from its lack of heart and largely unlikeable characters. Flatly directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 2011’s The Muppets), Neighbors is worthwhile if only just to see why anyone wouldn’t want Zac Efron living next door.