The new comedy movie NEIGHBORS from the producing team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg could be construed as an extreme re-imagining of the 1981 dark comedy of the same name starring the late John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd. The general plot is basically the same, consisting of a couple of quiet suburban homeowners whose lifestyle is threatened by new obnoxious neighbors. But from that point onward the similarities end.
The 2014 version has the quiet homeowners (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) adjusting to life as new parents with their ever-so-cute baby girl. A monkey wrench suddenly has been thrown into their midst in the form of a noisy hard-partying fraternity moving next door. Things between the family and the crew of Delta Psi lead by pretty boys Zac Efron and his 2nd in command (Dave Franco) start off friendly, with Rogen & Byrne joining in on their raucous fun, putting the frat boys and their friends at ease, as a ploy to get them to “keep it down” for future reference.
Unfortunately the situation soon turns into an all out war, once both sides feel they have betrayed the other. Soon, sabotage ensues between the neighbors. The homeowners vie to get the fraternity evicted, while the raucous frat brothers are on a mission to make life a living hell for the suburban family (mainly Green and Byrne, the frat actually adores their baby girl – how can one not) that they either will want to move, or give up and co-exist with the frat without compromises on toning down the loud parties.
As she had done in the previous comedies GET HIM TO THE GREEK and BRIDESMAIDS, Byrne again steals the movie with her comic timing, aggressive antics and (in this particular case,) foul-mouth cursing, showing a different side to her almost melancholic movie persona showcased in horror films, like INSIDOUS and 28 WEEKS LATER. With her talent, she is poised to be the next Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock once she is given the chance to carry a major film on her own and shines.
Rogen is his usual carefree stoner buddy self, seen in nearly all of his previous films. But that is why we enjoy watching him. He plays very relatable dudes, the kind of guys most of us know personally, if we are not a version of him ourselves.
Efron and Franco make for charismatic semi-villains as they tend to have a caring softer side that sometimes juxtaposes with a dark pathos – they do have moments of remorse throughout the film.
Which brings me to the some of the minor problems I had with the movie. Given the nature of the original Belushi/Ackroyd film, as well as Rogen and partner Evan Goldberg’s previous hit, THIS IS THE END, I was expecting NEIGHBORS to go further into dark territory as the comedic moments become equally outrageous and over-the-top. At times, it appeared the film was going that way, but then it suddenly shifts into lightheartedness that kind of betrays the overall premise of the film. I believe NEIGHBORS would be a better film if the plot tension and stakes were raised to ridiculous proportions. However, since over time, I knew the movie was not going in that direction, I feel it should have ended earlier than it had. The final epilogue feels tacked on and anti-climatic.
That said, I still really enjoyed the movie and I laughed many times throughout. As uneven as it seems, NEIGHBORS is a fun, rollicking ride through the animal house!