Critical Mass: Is 'Neighbors' the season's best comedy?

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Image Credit: Glen Wilson

Most parents would do anything to protect their children from danger. In Neighbors, that danger takes the form of a discarded used condom on a young couple’s front lawn, and the offending party is the raucous fraternity — led by an ab-fab Zac Efron — that just moved in next door. Seth Rogen and Bridemaids‘ Rose Byrne play the young suburban couple whose lives are upended by the frat’s 24-hour antics. And as it turns out, the tit-for-tat battle of wills and pranks that ensues might be the season’s funniest comedy.

Director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) is back in an R-rated groove — after co-writing two Muppets movies — and Neighbors has the polish and personnel of a Judd Apatow joint (though the Knocked Up filmmaker is not involved). There’s Rogen, playing a new dad who can’t help but look longingly at the fun going on next door. There’s Dave Franco and McLovin himself, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, playing oddly-talented members of the fraternity. And there’s the delightfully surprising Byrne, who plays a young mother struggling with her new role at home with a baby. In fact, though she’s surrounded by larger comic personae, Byrne — who proved she could do comedy in 2011’s Bridesmaids — marks her own territory. “Speaking in her native Aussie twang, Byrne shows that she’s a deadpan comic ace,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty. “And thanks to her chemistry with Rogen, Neighbors proves that just because you grow up doesn’t mean you have to be a grown-up.”

Read Nashawaty’s entire review, as well as a round-up of other notable critics, below.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
It’s a frat-house flick with more on its mind than beer, bongs, and beer bongs. It’s also a razor-sharp commentary on desperately trying to remain carefree after the burdens of adulthood have taken over.

A.O. Scott (New York Times)
Neighbors is not a great film and does not really aspire to be. It is more a status report on mainstream American movie comedy, operating in a sweet spot between the friendly and the nasty, and not straining to be daring, obnoxious or even especially original.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle) ▲
Neighbors is funny for all 96 of its minutes, not counting the credits, and it contains the single best sight gag of the year so far. (We’re talking laugh-out-loud funny and then laugh again later, just thinking about it.)”

Richard Corliss (TIME)
“Screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien (who worked in minor capacities on [Judd] Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin) are fascinated by things that can expand to the bursting point — air bags, a mother’s breasts — but show no interest in plot plausibility.”

Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times)
“[The film] exposes the considerable angst of emerging adulthood with a kind of scatological fervor designed to elicit oodles of inappropriate laughs. It succeeds. Despite a strain of sweetness and considerable smarts, the film is a bit like Animal House on steroids — and with penis molds. If crude and lewd offend, beware.”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe)
“Underlying all the condom jokes and bad behavior is something genuine: the anxiety that young people in a youth-obsessed culture can feel when they’re finally and irrevocably called upon to be responsible.”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)
Neighbors isn’t designed to impress with subtle comedy or clever construction. Rather, it’s a movie of wammies: one-liners, shticks and sight gags that don’t gain in momentum or accrue in meaning. They just happen, quickly, then get out of the way to make room for the next ones.”

Dana Stevens (Slate)
“Byrne, who played a tightly wound control freak to perfection in Bridesmaids, here gets a chance to bust loose. In a late sequence where she frantically spearheads a multipart mission to bring down Delta Psi from the inside, Byrne makes you wish someone would write a big, broad, raunchy comedy just for her.”

Rene Rodriguez (Miami Herald)
“In Neighbors, Efron lets the darkness show: As the neighborhood feud grows out of control, and he threatens Mac by saying “I’m going to kill you,” the line is more chilling than funny, because … Efron makes you believe he’s capable of anything.”

Bilge Ebiri (New York — Vulture)
“All [Neighbors] asks of Efron is that he be cool, calculating, dumb, and ruthless. And for once, he seems liberated. That immobile, beautiful face, long his greatest weakness as an actor (if not as a heartthrob), finally transforms into his greatest weapon.”

Wesley Morris (Grantland)
“When Efron and Rogen have a conversation through Batman impersonations (Christian Bale for Efron; Michael Keaton for Rogen), it’s amusing in part because you didn’t think Efron had this kind of amusement in him. The movie comes to like Teddy; too much, I’d say. But in doing so, it sweetens both its stars.”

Neighbors
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 69
Rotten Tomatoes: 76 percent

Rated: R
Length: 96 minutes
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Starring Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco
Distributor: Universal

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