With sterling performances and writing, Neighbors immediately becomes the most solid experience in theaters right now.
The film sets the Radner family (Seth Rogen, who also produces, and Rose Byrne), freshly moved into a house they’ve spent every dime on, against a frat house that moves in next door and that fraternity’s president, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron). Initially, the Radners party with them as both groups try to gain each other’s respect and cooperation. But when the Radners phone the police, the frat begins to deliberately push the envelope with noise and trash. The situation quickly escalates out of control.
Neighbors is a deeply satisfying comedy, attacking with unexpected body humor and clever jokes but never descending into generic stupidity. Writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien have a winner with this script, one that is funny and subtly thought-provoking. Rogen is divisive as a comic actor because his bread and butter — saying things that aren’t funny in such a way that stoners will laugh anyway — is technically not very funny, but here he gets solid lines with which to use his delivery.
Rogen leads a fantastic cast, all of whom demonstrate a broad range. He and Byrne regularly switch from tired parents of a newborn to a party animal 10 years younger to a bite-your-tongue-sexy temptress. Efron is able to be a bully and a menace and a small child scared of growing up, sometimes all in the same scene.
The blend of strong acting and writing brings out the heart of Neighbors — its characters are truly scared of each other. The Radners wish they could be in a fraternity like Delta Psi again. The feud brings out frat-like behavior from the Radners, who quickly resort to the illegal. Sanders is afraid he’ll never attain their success in the real world and displays a benevolence one would expect from new parents.
The movie has a character to appeal to every part of that magical 18-to-35 year old demographic. That’s probably why everyone is going to see it.
On its opening Friday alone, the film made $19.6 million, eclipsing its production budget by $1.6 million. According to boxofficemojo.com, Universal was predicting just $20-to-30 million. The website predicted $40 million for the weekend and has upped that to $52 million after the strong opening night. A day and a half into its run, the film is already a smash hit.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a senior staff writer for the NT Daily. Happy Mother’s Day! For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for.