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MOVIES: Neighbors – Raunchy, offensive and hilarious – Review

With the careless anarchy of Animal House and memorable dialogue rivaling that of Old School, Neighbors shines bright as a worthy addition to the canon of great college movie comedies. Directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five-Year Engagement) and starring an incredible cast of comic actors, Neighbors is like a drunk cousin at a wedding, wreaking havoc and offending anyone and everyone with inappropriate jokes about rape and far too many penis appearances.

The movie sets up its premise simply and efficiently to give way to the epic hilarity which quickly ensues. Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) Radner are a young couple with a brand new baby who have just bought their first house. Trying to live the life of respectable parents and contributing members of society, they follow the happy family formula as best they can: Mac goes to work every day in a mundane and soul-sucking office while Kelly stays home with their daughter, her only contact with the outside world the horrible play dates with the other mommies whom she abhors. The American Dream in action.

When the house next to theirs is sold to a fraternity (instead of the lovely looking gay couple they had hoped for), Mac and Kelly fear their lives will be ruined by the cacophony of partying, orgying and whatever other nonsense will take place at all hours of the night. Trying to play it cool, they appeal to the dudes of Delta Psi Beta for a reasonable level of noise. Teddy (Zac Efron), the frat’s president who oozes charisma and charm, assures Mac and Kelly that they’ll be respectable. When Teddy fails to uphold his promise, though, Mac and Kelly calls the cops on their new neighbors. Taking this as a sign of aggression, Teddy and his vice-president, Pete (Dave Franco), begin making life miserable for the crotchety old couple next door. Mac and Kelly respond in kind and from there the battle escalates. Quickly.

Rogen is undoubtedly one of the funniest actors in Hollywood. His ability to say the most outrageous dialogue while keeping a straight face is unmatched by his peers. In Neighbors, though, his already impressive game rises to a new level alongside Byrne whose more serious work has long hidden the fact that she is a damn funny actor (see Bridesmaids and I Give It A Year for proof). Kelly isn’t the stereotypical stick-in-the-mud wife of the irresponsible husband that we’ve seen time and time again. Kelly is just as irresponsible and clueless as Mac which is a welcome reversal of the Hollywood comedy formula.

With Efron, Neighbors strikes gold. Efron never tries to be funny which is his greatest strength. Instead, Efron approaches the role with total sincerity, echoing the complete seriousness with which Teddy handles anything having to do with the fraternity or his brothers. Efron allows the comedy to organically arise from the absurdity of his actions and how he composes himself. Franco is a nice balance to Efron, though he gets slightly lost in the third act attempt at character development.

Stoller does a wonderful job as director managing and encouraging the mayhem, while never letting it grow too outlandish. There’s plenty of offensive dialogue and more penis jokes than most Kevin Smith movies, but never does it feel like the cast is trying too hard. Some of the situations are a little too contrived (the frat being forced to make rubber molds of their penises to raise money, for example), but the scenes are so hilarious that it’s easily forgotten.

Neighbors is without question the funniest movie so far in 2014 and the best college comedy since Old School.

Grade: A