Nicholas Stoller’s feature film “Neighbors” targets the clichés of American university culture and, more specifically, fraternity brotherhoods. The movie has a way of making the audience laugh at situations that would make any child protection activist cringe.
Revolving around a series of volatile interactions between married couple Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) and their neighbors—fraternity brothers—this film is a satirical comment on the absurd stunts of the stereotypical male college student.
It is not surprising that Rogen plays the male lead in a film like “Neighbors.” The film fits Rogen’s filmography of ridiculous comedies like Superbad and Pineapple Express.
Although slightly over-the-top with the far-fetched lengths these fraternity brothers go to in order to ruin the young parents’ lives, there are particular scenes that prove to be humorous in their extremity. Rogen’s character, for example, is catapulted from his work chair into the ceiling, and the fraternity brothers generate revenue by using sex toys to fix the outcome of the vengeful attacks on their house by this eccentric couple.
The addition of Zac Efron as the lead frat boy, Teddy, aids the ridiculousness of the situation. His commitment to the brotherhood through childish handshakes and alpha-male persona is amusing and perfectly placed.
Efron attracts a certain type of audience—teenage girls or young women who have this perception of him as the model for the “perfect” male. “Neighbors” portrays his character as an obnoxious, pretentious leader. This switch from the male “teen dream” role-model confuses audiences, leading viewers to wonder if they should still be attracted to his rude character or exile him.This aspect of the film is clever and fits its satirical tone.
Similar to movies like “Animal House” and “Old School,” this film is not fully original in its general idea, but there are a few aspects that remain unique.
For instance, while “Frank-the-Tank” from “Old School” goes streaking, his wife moves on, dismissing his strange, rebellious activity as fruitless.
In “Neighbors,” however, Mac and Kelly remain a team and take part in extensive frat exploits that constantly disrupt their quiet lives.
As the “Mean Dean,” played by Lisa Kudrow, insults them with her disinterest in their problems with the frat, the couple continues to support each other’s views.
Kudrow, who is known for playing quirky characters such as Phoebe on “Friends,” portrays a careless university leader who subtly threatens the couple with negative publicity to keep them quiet about the frat’s outrageous behavior.
This is a portrayal of some higher institutions that dismiss serious accusations against their college organizations in order to maintain a respectable image to prospective students and investors.
Every character outside the main cast seems to be thoroughly aloof and unconcerned with the seriousness of the fraternity’s actions, including the couple’s realtor.
Typical of Rogen films, cops are made fun of repeatedly. During one scene, a cop stares with his dead-pan glare while stating, “We have caller ID. We’re cops.” This sense of entitlement is constantly reinforced in almost every scene in which a police officer is present. These small gags are amusing in their stereotypical vagueness, leaving room for viewers to think about larger social issues rather than simply laughing.
There are a lot of scenes that seem disconnected to the larger ideas presented, but the constant comedic one-liners keep audiences interested.
Overall, “Neighbors” is a movie to watch when one feels the need to laugh thoroughly. With its serious concepts shielded deeply by its constant hilarity, it is a surprisingly interesting comment on alcohol-obsessed fraternities and the institutions that protect them.