Neighbors (R)

Comedy 96 May 9, 2014
By Amy Nicholson
Nicholas Stoller's hilarious Neighbors splashes into summer with the satisfying swish-plop-hooray of a winning beer pong serve, making the director, who also wrote March's Muppets Most Wanted, the first filmmaker in history to simultaneously have in theaters both a kiddie flick and an R-rated comedy where two men sword-fight with dildos.

Seth Rogen plays Mac Radner, a cubicle drone who married his college sweetheart, Kelly (Rose Byrne), spawned a baby, and has just become the first in his friend group to buy a house. The Radners are convinced that now little Stella (twins Elise and Zoey Vargas) is six months old, they'll transition into the cool parents who can take their baby to a rave.

When a fraternity moves in next door, Kelly and Mac are stoked to attend an all-night party within range of their baby monitor. But as all-night transitions into every night, they admit that they just can't hang. And once the cops get called, it's war. This sounds like squares versus slobs, a recipe for stupid pratfalls, and there's plenty of them. But Stoller and his screenwriters are too smart for simple stereotypes: This is family versus family, and neither house has the upper moral hand.

Here, Zac Efron as the frat president gets his Brando moment -- a wheelchair-bound meltdown worthy of Colonel Kurtz -- while showing off his subtle comic timing. But Byrne is the movie's MVP thanks to a script that does what few comedies allow: let the wife earn some laughs. She's so funny that you wonder once again why the Sandlers and Apatows of the world waste their women by writing them as shrews. Is Hollywood the ultimate fraternity? Maybe Byrne can break up that party, too.
Nicholas Stoller Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen, Jake Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Lisa Kudrow, Halston Sage, Carla Gallo, Chasty Ballesteros Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O'Brien Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver Universal Pictures

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