I admit it. My always-thin ability to finds humor in movies about irresponsible jerks who won’t grow up has long since evaporated, and if I ever found irresponsibility entertaining, I can no longer remember why. Though I suspect this development has something to do with an overdose of the Apatow atelier, including Seth Rogen and writer/director Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement). I keep remembering Mae West’s answer when she was asked what advice she had for the youth of America.
“Neighbors,” which Rogen has described as a loose sequel to arrested development comedy “Knocked Up,” is the story of Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), a couple with a new baby who are not ready to cross the line into being grown-ups. They love each other and they love the baby, but cannot quite relinquish the notion of themselves as primal in the world of what is cool and happening. When a friend calls to invite them out to a club, they decide the thing to do is pack up all the baby gear and bring him along. “Baby’s first rave!” they exclaim. Then, because being a parent is so exhausting, they fall asleep. Funny!
Just to hammer the final nail in the “you’re old and boring now” coffin, who should move in next door but a fraternity, led by Teddy (Zac Efron), who, Mac admits with admiration as well as envy, is so handsome and buff that he looks like he was designed by gay men in a laboratory. Mac and Kelly convene on how to best introduce themselves to their new neighbors in a manner that shows that they are totally cool and yet conveys that it would be super-nice if the guys could just keep the noise down as there is a baby next door. A few rehearsals to make sure they have the coolness down (not too much of self-deprecatory head shake), and they go over, immediately showing themselves to be idiots by joining in the frat’s housewarming party and getting very, very high.
Mac promises Teddy that if they have any problems they will go straight to him and not call the police. Then, after his baby picks up a condom from their lawn, he calls the police, anonymously, he thinks, until the cop reminds him that they have caller ID. Teddy, feeling betrayed, declares all-out war. Mac and Kelly, unwisely, decide to escalate.
There are some funny moments, especially a Robert DeNiro-themed frat party. But they get lost in a tidal wave of stupid humor like an extended sequence with the frat members raising money by selling dildoes modeled on their own…members. Did you think you could avoid a joke about getting stuck in the mold? Sorry. Really sorry.
Rogen does the same thing he does in every other movie. Byrne is, as always, beautiful, on target, and delightfully game for whatever. It’s nice to see a female character in one of these boys’ club movies who is not relegated to telling everyone to grow up. Efron and Dave Franco as his sidekick deserve better. So do we.
Parents should know that this movie is exceptionally raunchy, with very explicit sexual references and situations and nudity and many crude jokes. Characters use very strong language, drink, and use drugs and there is comic violence.
Family discussion: Why did Mac and Kelly want the frat to think they were cool? Why didn’t Pete tell Teddy the truth? What will Teddy do next?
If you like this, try: “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”