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Has Seth Rogen become America’s sweetheart? He seems to be one of the most likeable and relatable actors working today. The overweight pot-smoking man-child essentially plays himself in each of his movies and audiences have not gotten tired of this shtick, present company included. Well, fans should be pleased to see that Rogen does not stray from character in his new film. However, this one does not live up to the standards of some of his previous movies.
Neighbors opens up as a young married couple getting used to having a baby in their lives. Their biggest challenge seems to be where to have sex. Rogen plays Mac who is married to Kelly, played by the deceptively funny Rose Byrne. As if parenting wasn’t challenging already, the couple face a living nightmare when a college fraternity move in next door. The frat is headed by Teddy, played by Zac Efron, while his right hand man Pete is played by Dave Franco, younger brother of James. Efron is one of the most pleasant surprises in this film as he is able to keep up with Rogen and seems to enjoy getting made fun of for his sexy personae.
Needless to say Mac and Kelly are not too pleased about their new neighbor’s lifestyle. So they make it their mission in life to drive the frat boys out of their neighborhood, by any means necessary.
The movie gets off to a shaky start as it is paced and edited very awkwardly. It is as though the movie is trying to cram as many jokes possible and get through all of the set up quickly so that we can get to more of the pranks. Director Nicholas Stoller, whose previous comedies include Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Five-Year Engagement, typically has a more deliberate pace to his films as we grow to appreciate the characters, but he strays from that path here resulting in a movie geared more towards people with A.D.D.
The pranks are where the majority of the laughs come from as each side tries to one up the other. And just in case you were worried, there are plenty of dick jokes and weed to fill the hour and a half run time. But after a while, they do become tiresome as we are pulled along to the inevitable “party that will be like no party before” climax.
Comedies are arguably the most actor driven genre because an unfunny actor can struggle mightily to make a joke work, while a funny comic actor can bring great energy to something that may not be very funny. Neighbors falls into the latter category. The performances are all very good and all the actors do their best to make everything work and elicit as many laughs as they can, but unfortunately the material and the execution just isn’t up to the level of the actors.