Movie review: There goes the neighborhood with too much partying

What It's AboutMay 8, 2014 

An expected raucous comedy turns out to have multiple personalities, and the better half of "Neighbors" is the reluctant growing-up of the new parents.

First-time writers Andrew Cohen and Brendan O'Brien have injected cruder and lewder frat-boy humor to get the gross-out crown, but in truth it doesn't try anything new.

Where the focus should have been flipped is on the rookie parents who fret their days of having fun are over. This realistic look at the effect a baby has on couples is far more enjoyable than hard-partying bros and their bimbos.

A suburban war escalates when Delta Psi Beta moves next door to new parents, Kelly and Mac Radner (Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen). The frat house makes them long for a taste of their freewheeling days but also drives the sleep-deprived couple batty with their loud blowout bashes.

That whiplash in tone makes for genial comic moments interspersed with a plethora of body part jokes.

Performances

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne ("Bridesmaids") have an appealing chemistry as the college sweethearts who are committed to each other but frazzled. He's playing a variation of his typical flabby Joe Schmoe stoner, but shows he is comfortable as a new dad.

Zac Efron is Teddy, the golden boy frat president whose well-toned physique and smooth charm have diverted attention from his directionless academic record. He's determined to make a name for himself among the frat's legendary party history.

Remnants of the Judd Apatow gang are here, with Dave Franco subbing for too-old big brother James, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse in a minor role.

Franco is Teddy's wing man Pete, who actually has a promising future as an architect. While neither stands out, they don't embarrass themselves, either.

What Works

The twins playing baby Stella are adorable, and the family issues are laced with realism and humor, which makes it relatable. Every single parent can identify with the Radners' situations.

Director Nicholas Stoller demonstrated he could make rom-coms with some heart in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "The Five-Year Engagement," and did not need to rely on the silly raunchiness, such as the guys manufacturing sex toys to make money for house repairs.

The debauchery goes on and on, and watching people party for extended lengths is not entertaining -- a little goes a long way, particularly when the wild lifestyle's been covered ad nauseum in many similar frat-boy movies.

What Doesn't Work

After a very funny start, the laughs become fewer and far-between. The screenwriters have crammed many pop culture references into the script, and while I enjoy a good "Batman" debate and DeNiro impressions, the reliance on them makes this feel derivative and stretched thin.

They also don't know how to end the movie, and go for a doozie of a product placement and cheap sight-gag laughs.

2 1/2 stars out of 4

Director: Nicholas Stoller

Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Lisa Kudrow

Rated:R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout.

Length: 1:36

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