Movie Review: Neighbors

Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Jerrod Carmichael, Halston Sage

Directed By: Nicholas Stoller

I love my raunchy R-Rated comedies. I love my Seth Rogen comedies. I think Rose Byrne is hilarious. She was great in Bridesmaids. Dave Franco is a rising star, and in many ways a better actor than his brother (who seems sometimes TOO aloof). Even though I’m 30, I consider myself “down” with the comedies of today (much the same way Rogen’s character is “down” with the frat kids, I suppose). I still find myself thinking that comedies should be funny and cleverly written. Jokes are about setup and punchline. Timing is everything. Simply having awkward sex talk is not going to make me laugh. It just makes me feel awkward.

A few times in the film, Rogen and Byrne engage in some kind of sexual intercourse, and the graphic detail of the situation is supposed to make us laugh. They freely use the words ejaculate and cum, hoping to get a laugh. Just using crude terminology doesn’t warrant laughter. Most of us have heard those words before, and while they aren’t frequently used in movies, just simply using them doesn’t make a scene funny. An out-of-shape Seth Rogen humping Rose Byrne is not funny just because it is happening. Set up. Punchline. These things are missing throughout portions of Neighbors.

Don’t get me wrong. I laughed several times, out loud. The airbag gags are fantastic. Zac Efron and Dave Franco are both really funny. Efron is actually quite perfect as the college guy who loves the idea of college, and being the big man on campus, but hasn’t actually learned anything. He’s the Van Wilder for the new generation. He’s contrasted by Franco’s character, who loves to party, but also loves to study. A great sight gag with a 3D printer is highlighted by Franco’s character saying that the school has some pretty great resources that no one uses.

I read that what Rogen loved about Neighbors was that Rose Byrne’s wife character wasn’t diminished at all. She holds her own against Rogen, and loves to party just as much, and plots as often as Rogen’s character does to take down the fraternity. She’s not second fiddle, nor is she the nagging wife. She’s as strong a person as Rogen is, if not stronger.

The idea that this type of comedy perpetuates violence is absurd. What those people are saying is that it’s impossible for someone who looks like Rogen to land someone who looks like Byrne, thus objectifying people for what they look like and not who they are. In real life, lots of women end up marrying the guy who they can start a family with, and has a stable income, and not the six pack ab model with no future. This is a concept highlighted by Rogen in his movie when Byrne’s character is able to recount how she and Rogen first met, whereas Efron’s girlfriend in the film simply remembers “I saw him. He saw me.”

Somehow, a silly frat comedy with jokes about breast milk and dildos entered our news cycle following a school shooting. This movie is so far from the types of things that would encourage violence. It has a happy ending, no one dies, no shots are fired, and there’s virtually no violence in the film. People are treated based on the way they act, not how they look. As a film, it’s a solid comedy, but not groundbreaking. I certainly wouldn’t put it in any kind of pantheon of “great comedy films”, where Animal House would lie, and even more recent efforts like Bridesmaids or The Hangover. As far as a good way to spend two hours? Sure. But let’s leave it at that, and stop trying to use this film to sensationalize a tragedy.


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