Nothing to like about 'Neighbors'

The Fresno BeeMay 7, 2014 

"Neighbors" looks at the conflict between Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne), a couple with a new baby, and the raucous Delta fraternity that moves into the house next door. What could have been a smart comedy about the battle of the ages too often finds itself in such a loss for anything funny that it resorts to an endless string of jokes about male sex organs.

Movies like this require the audience to take a side. Do the new parents deserve some peace and quiet? Do young college students have the right to party hardy?

The only way the story works is if either side is likable. That rules out the Radners.

Writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien create a Catch 22 with having the couple be new parents. It gives them the plot line: A new baby often means the parents have to (or at least should) leave their partying days behind. It would make more sense if the couple were close to the same age as the college students. But Rogen and Byrne are old enough to have had plenty of years of partying.

Any last scrap of concern for the couple gets killed when they decide to leave their baby alone in the house while they drink and do drugs at a fraternity party next door. There's no way to support a couple who should have been taken off in handcuffs by child services 20 minutes into the movie.

This is comedy of convenience. The filmmakers expect the audience to ignore major potholes just to move the story along.

The fraternity guys aren't any better. Their president, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), is dealing with a Peter Pan complex that makes him go into military mode in battling the neighbors. The only time the guys aren't engaged in this neighborhood turf war is when they are involved in activity involving their sex organs. Cohen and O'Brien need to understand that shock comedy only works when it comes as a shock and not as the norm.

These fraternity members aren't the same kind of lovable rogues who made up the residents of "Animal House." The antics of the guys in that film were based on having fun and not motivated by being mean, vindictive and cruel. The "Neighbors" fraternity is as unlikable as their neighbors.

Rogen must have seen the problems in the script because there are countless scenes where he just riffs in an effort to generate something funny. He tries, but he fails.

There will be those who will defend the movie saying it's a comedy and shouldn't be judged so seriously. There's nothing wrong with over-the-top, raunchy comedy. Rogen starred in a perfect example with last year's "This Is the End." The problem is that "Neighbors" is so poorly written it makes it easy to condemn both houses.

Movie review

"Neighbors," rated R for drug use, language, graphic nudity, violence. Stars Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco. Directed by Nicholas Stoller. Running time: 97 minutes. Grade: D

Theaters and times

 

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at www.fresnobeehive.com.

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