It seems like Neighbors 2 came and went from theaters really quickly this summer, and unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to see it. I am a fan of the first one and because I missed my opportunity to see its sequel, I revisited the first film over the holiday weekend and I am happy to report that I really enjoyed Neighbors on a second viewing. Many comedies don’t hold up on repeat viewings because you are aware of the jokes and the punchlines and the surprise of certain gags is diminished. But Neighbors holds up surprisingly well.
Neighbors stars Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen as a young couple with a new baby daughter who have moved into a new house and have immediately grown old. They are the couple that used to party a lot, want to still party, but just fall asleep at the door whenever they try to party. So instead they opt for quiet nights in with their daughter and trying to have sex in every room in their new house. Eventually, a fraternity, led by Zach Efron and Dave Franco, of a nearby college moves in next door. At first the couple and the frat brothers seem to reach an understanding as they party and drink and do drugs together. The brothers let the couple know if they ever get too loud to let them know and they’ll be responsible about it. Unfortunately for the couple and the fraternity, that peace doesn’t last long. They neighbors go to war, pranking each other and causing havoc and destruction.
A lot of the humor of this film comes from the conflict between this young couple and the president of the fraternity, gleefully and charmingly acted by Zach Efron. Both sides resort to despicable lows filled with gross-out humor and some fantastic set ups and payoffs. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are completely believable as a couple pushed to the edge. On the surface, this couple is fighting their neighbors, but they are also fighting for themselves. They feel as if they are no longer relevant and that they can still be partiers even with a baby. They are worried about becoming old and strive to maintain their youth. This war is an outlet for all of their pent up nerves anxiety and energy, and they relish the battle.
Rose Byrne steels the show and proves how wonderful of a comedic actress she is, especially in a movie that allows her native Australia accent and demeanor out to play. She gets some of the best scenes, particularly one involving some psychological warfare about setting up two frat brothers against each other. It’s conniving and brilliant and perfect in its execution. Byrne really shines in this role and I’m happy the film allows her many opportunities to be gross and be a fully realized character and not simply be the stereotypical hot wife of the comedic husband (the film even has a great dig at Kevin James about that very stereotype).
The film is stylishly directed by Nicholas Stoller who directed one of my favorite comedies, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Stoller perfectly captures the feel of a modern frat party, filled with black lights, EDM and alcohol. The frat parties in this film aren’t glamorous or exotic, they feel very real. They aren’t over the top like many movies portray college parties. Neighbors show people getting sloppily drunk and for me, the movie doesn’t glamorize the party. With the use of wide angle lenses and colorful lighting and quick cuts, the film is stylish in how it presents the parties, but that style of filmmaking makes the parties feel authentic.
Nieghbors is a very well made comedy that deserved its big box office and critical acclaim. It deals with a lot of interesting ideas like what defines a young couple getting “old” and what does it mean to be in a fraternity? The cast is strong and everyone has amazing chemistry and plays off each other quite well. The jokes and script are solid, and some comedy bits still put a smile on my face when I think of them (I will always love the baby rave Facetime session). The film is perfectly cast and doesn’t play into the typical fraternity or young movie couple cliches. It really is a well-made comedy. I hope to catch its sequel sometime soon, especially after laughing so much on my second viewing of Neighbors.