'Neighbors' is pretty funny, bro

Matt Pais movie review: 'Neighbors'

RedEye's Matt Pais and Ernest Wilkins praise the comedy in an episode that becomes "Dude!" or "Dude."

*** (out of four)

The laughs trail off in the adulthood vs. frat boys comedy “Neighbors,” and the emotion is plopped on top like bananas added late to pancakes . But still. This is a funny-ass movie. And yes, the use of the term “funny-ass” is completely justified here.

Directed by Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “The Five-Year Engagement”) and featuring a better-than-usual use of Zac Efron and Dave Franco, “Neighbors” stars Seth Rogen as the flab taking on the aforementioned muscle. At first, new parents Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) try to get on the level with the fraternity that moves in next door. They give the Delta Psi Beta guys weed and party with them, hoping a night of intoxicated nonsense will make up for the morning reminder that the boys should please keep it down from then on. The baby needs to sleep, dammit.

Obviously, the party doesn’t stop. Mac and Kelly make the mistake of calling the cops, and then [bleep] gets real. Teddy (Efron) and Pete (Franco), the frat’s president and vice president, respectively, engage in full-fledged neighbor warfare. The young family, who’ve already been feeling old, can only respond by going all “Revenge of the Nerds”/”Old School” and trying to get the dudes booted off campus.

Like all good Rogen movies, “Neighbors” has a boatload of great one-liners that aren’t as funny on paper. It also does a nice job creating non-cliche characters out of several frat boys, with Efron and Franco allowed to be more than just the pretty boy and the smarmy jerk. The script from first-time feature writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien isn’t sure how to maintain the hilarity while actually getting to the point. Most of the movie is better than jokes like a baby finding a condom, but not surprisingly the female characters don’t have much to do here.

For yet another movie about the lousiness of commitment and adulthood and saying goodbye to debauchery of younger days, “Neighbors” finds a way to surprise. Three words: Fraternity. Dildo. Fundraiser.

Watch Matt review the week's big new movies Fridays at noon on NBC.

mpais@tribune.com

 

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