This is the End was one of the best films of last year. The way it combined laugh-out-loud comedy with actual themes made Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s film quite memorable. Even if their follow-up to This is the Endonly featured them in a producing role instead of directing and writing (although Seth Rogen is in the leading role), Neighbors was going to be a must see. Luckily, what made This is the End so great can still be found in spades in Neighbors.
Neighbors follows Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) as they try to adjust to adult life with their newborn baby. Getting in their way, though, is the fraternity moving in next door. When the couple tries to play it cool with their new neighbors they accidentally start a war with the frat’s leader, Teddy (Zac Efron). The film is directed by Nicholas Stroller (from the Muppet film series re-launch and the Aldous Snow series) and is written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien.
To be honest the comedy in this film is only above average. There are some great gags (including a Batman impersonation fight-off and an epic dance-off that doesn’t quite go to plan) but there’s nothing that’s quite memorable. What really makes this film work so well are two things that we don’t see regularly in films of any genre let alone comedy. The first is the sincere dissection of what it means to be an adult in today’s world. There’s a lot of discussion about adulthood without ever hitting you over the head with it and it gives a lot of great material to Zac Efron and Dave Franco (whose clashing relationship really allows for this discussion to flow through the film).
The second is that this is a film that actually has a female character treated as an equal and Rose Byrne takes full advantage of that with what might be the performance of this still young year. Seth Rogen’s Mac might be the main character but Rose Byrne’s Kelly has almost as much screentime as the writing for the character and Byrne’s performance makes it known that Kelly deserves to have all of the fun that Mac does. Byrne is able to take full advantage of her sexiness while still delivering the funniest performance (she may not invoke the biggest laughs but she is the most consistent performer in that regard) in the film.
With a strong cast and an interesting exploration of adulthood Neighbors finds a way to rise above your average comedy film.