So, maybe I need a fact check on this but I believe Nicholas Stoller is the first director ever to have a kiddie flick (Muppets: Most Wanted) and an R-rated comedy running in the theaters at the same time. One has Kermit the frog and the other features a fight involving floppy dildos. I think that is what we call range, folks.
I'll come right out and say it: Neighbors is hilarious. This is something that feels like it is straight of the Harold Ramis school of screenwriting. It is a married couple with a baby versus the rowdy boys of Psi Delta Beta. This particular fraternity is well-known for throwing the most epic of ragers and, well, this new cozy neighborhood shall be their latest conquest.
Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) Radner are as just about as broadly drawn when we first meet them as any married folk are with a new baby. Their sleep deprived, trying to sneak in some adult-time when they can and generally feeling like life is over. That adult way of life almost feels like a costume, though, as their still young. They're still hip right? There is an exchange early on between the two while the boys next door are settling in that goes from casual to outright outrageous. Rogen's comedic timing has always been rather deadly but I was genuinely surprised by Rose Byrne. This was the first of many strong moments from her throughout the film and, unlike other Apatow or Sandler-driven productions, the wife was one of the very best parts of the entire flick. Rogen and Byrne play off of each other so well that I honestly hope we get more of them together in the future. A truly wonderful comedic pairing.
The president of the hard-partying Delta Psi Beta brothers is Teddy (Zac Efron) who, as Mac puts it, looks like "a gay guy created him in a laboratory". Chiseled isn't even the word for it. The dude is an Adonis and, frankly, he's going with what works. He's attempted, in recent years, to go against type-cast but here? He's going all-in on the psychotic frat-boy that gets pushed just a bit too far. He is charming yet so vile and, now that his territory and brothers are threatened by the old people next door, he is ready to go to war. He speaks in grandiose terms, rallying his brothers to greatness with stirring tales of the past glories of their fine fraternity. They re-invented the party wheel so many times that they now stand "on the shoulders of giants". No sarcasm can be heard. He believes it wholly and only a gargantuan end-of-year bash will secure their places in the annals of party history.
This sort of movie, as high-minded as its ambitions might be, is replete with plenty of pratfall moments. The aforementioned sex toy rumble being one of them but for all the physical comedy, dick jokes and cursing (which there is plenty) there is something that sneaks up on you. It is something that Andrew Cohen and Brendan O'Brien are to be applauded for. Nuance. They injected some much needed nuance into what should have been a stoner comedy that has a baby in it. Mac, the new Dad trying to fit into the skin of being an adult still wants to be just like Teddy. Kelly, as good a Mother as she is, is bored and finds this fight with the college boys across the way as a grand distraction from the dregs of the day-to-day. Teddy, handsome as can be but clearly worried about what the hell is going to happen after graduation, pours himself into vengeance against the Radners. His wing-man and V.P. of the frat, Pete (Dave Franco), goes to class far more often but still parties just as hard along side his chosen family. He has a unique talent that, well, requires the sort of music one might hear during a Ken Burns documentary while the Sun rises over the blood-soaked fields of Gettysburg. Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) also serves the cause while apparently packing something extra in his jeans (Yes it comes up more than few times).
The all-consuming need to one-up each other starts to get rather nasty and, credit where its due, Efron really dives in. He even gets his Brando-esque freak-out moment. Rogen, one of the most likable leading men in comedy, continues to shine as the man-child. Rose steals the show often and, frankly, I couldn't get enough. The baby is a level of adorable, as well, that is hard to describe. The jokes come fast and furious and while not all of them work most are frequently hilarious. The endless bacchanal shenanigans of the fraternity butting heads with, well, the reality of what every one of those boys will ultimately end up becoming? The acknowledgement of that throughout, while subtle, is apparent enough to elevate this above the normal R-rated comedy landscape.