'The Funniest Movie Since 'Neighbors'' Is What Every Comedy Will Be Marketed As for the Next Two Years

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'The Funniest Movie Since 'Neighbors'' Is What Every Comedy Will Be Marketed As for the Next Two Years

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | May 9, 2014 | Comments ()


There’s a dildo fight in Neighbors. There are boner gags. A baby nearly swallows a condom. There’s a breastfeeding sequence that will bring you to tears with laughter. A female character wears an actual penis as a choker necklace. Women make out. Pot is smoked. Mushrooms are eaten. There’s even a random fart joke tossed in for good measure.

And here’s the irony: It’s also Seth Rogen’s most mature comedy to date. But — and here’s what too many filmmakers fail to understand — you can still blend juvenile humor with adult themes and make a great comedy. In fact, it’s the ability to provide realistic motivations for the dildo fight that makes Neighbors the best comedy since Bridesmaids. It’s not gross-out humor for the sake of itself; in Neighbors, there are actual human stakes involved, and that’s what allows it to transcend the typical studio-contrived, formula-driven, focus-tested comedy.

Neighbors is about a couple, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), with a new baby who are just trying to maintain some semblance of peace in their lives after a fraternity moves into the house next door. When they call the cops after a rager gets too loud, the fraternity president and vice-president, Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), instigate a prank war that quickly escalates into something much, much bigger.

But what Neighbors is really about is growing up, about kicking and screaming against the forces of adulthood, and about ultimately resigning yourself to the inevitability of age, and finding comfort in it. At its core, it’s a sweet, heartfelt, kick-your-teeth-in funny movie about a couple rebelling against parenthood before ultimately succumbing to it.

Those themes may sound heavy, but Neighbors is anything but. There is a dildo fight, after all. It’s also an incredibly well cast movie, too, and if I had to pick absolutely one reason why Neighbors is the must-see comedy of 2014, it’s Rose Byrne, who plays severely against type. In doing so, she brilliantly subverts the nagging, shrewish female romantic-comedy stereotype, particularly in one scene in which she and Rogen have an argument over who gets to be the Kevin James character in the relationship. Byrne more than just a passive observer; she’s more than just the wife in Neighbors. She’s a legitimate co-lead and arguably the funniest character in the film. She is profoundly amazing in this, and she’s the only reason I wouldn’t otherwise single out Zac Efron, who has finally found the role in a mainstream film that let’s him be what he was born to be: A pretty boy villain with amazing abs, a perfect gleaming smile, and enough charm to make us forget that he’s actually the antagonist. Efron is good, and I’d argue that no one could come away from watching this movie and honestly not have some respect for him as a legitimate comedic actor.

Rogen is Rogen, in a good way, and what allows both Seth Rogen and a guy like Jason Segel to continue playing the leading men in films like this is that neither really relies on a schtick that would otherwise play itself out after a few films. They’re everymen, just not the kind we were once accustomed to seeing. Rogen is never going to win any awards for acting, but he delivers a good line, and he inhabits characters that seem real, because they are: They’re heightened version of himself, and as he grows older, he seems to become more and more like his mentor, Judd Apatow, which may ultimately mean that Neighbors is his Knocked Up: The peak of his comedy career. From here on out, he probably either sells out for banal family films or he crawls up into his own ass like Apatow has and allows the autobiographical overshadow the comedy.

But that’s neither here or there for today, because above all, Neighbors itself is insanely, hilariously funny, and what makes it doubly so is the fact that the humor comes from a familiar place: Exhaustion, the inability to find moments in our day to have have sex our spouses, and the concern that the comfortable monotony of our adult lives means missing out on some theoretical adventures. That’s what makes it more than hilarious; that’s what makes Neighbors interesting.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Kertburger

    Saw it. Meh.

    I'll take my Neighbors with Belushi and Aykroyd, thanks.

  • Strand

    I like Rose Byrne when they let her keep her accent. I've always been 'eh' to her until The Internship where she was brain-meltingly sexy.

  • DominaNefret

    Everyone needs to see The Rage in Placid Lake. It is an Australian indie comedy starring Rose Byrne and Ben Lee (in the only acting role he has ever done), and it is one of my two all time favorite movies. I still rank it is maybe the funniest movie I have ever seen.
    I don't know if it was ever actually released in the US; I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival in 2005. I love Rose Byrne, and it is still my favorite thing she has been it, and my favorite part she has played.
    I actually don't want to tell people what it is about, because the movie is more enjoyable going in blind, but seriously, everyone see it. It is definitely a movie Pajibans will love.
    It is on Amazon streaming for $5.99 right now, and cheaper to rent.

  • PDamian

    Just saw it. Pretty good, but not great. I enjoyed it. I didn't lurve it.

    What was best about the film was Rogen and Byrne. Not only was there great chemistry between the two, but they both perfectly nailed the process of emerging maturity: the slow realization that the party days are over, followed by bemused regret and a last-ditch effort to hang on to youth, followed by the joy that comes when one realizes that one has indeed aged, but there are wonderful things in store that one hadn't previously considered. Byrne murmuring to Rogen while they lie in bed, "I love brunch!" and Rogen's response, "Yeah, I know, that's the shit!" made me laugh ruefully, and that's an emotion I hadn't felt in a while.

    All the same, I may not be young enough or hip enough to appreciate this film. The frat comedy is funny, and well-done, but after 45 or so, nekkid drunken fraternity hijinks tend to pall a bit. I chuckled, and the audience of the theatre I was in was screaming with laughter, but more than anything else, this film made me glad that 50 is in my rear view mirror and speeding up.

  • buell

    I saw this last night with the hubby and we both could not stand it. And I thought maybe it was just us but I overheard a husband tell his wife, "This movie sucks ass."

  • Abnormal person

    I'm glad to know there's at least 4 people on this forum that have taste. Infantile movie, with many "infants" AND their children in the theatre. I could hear the "infants" laughing...don't recall hearing the children laughing. Maybe there's still hope for THEM. Walked out about 45 min. into it.

  • Jezzer

    Your sentence should read "...there are at least four people..."

    You know, while you're being all superior and stuff.

  • laylaness

    Mr. Ness and I will be seeing this. It's our life right now, minus the offspring.

    Somehow, I knew Dustin would be on the Efron train, after yesterday's post.

  • Snath

    Did anyone else notice the reeeeaaaally subtle digs at Apatow? I know, they were kind of hard to find. I had to reread it a couple times.

  • BWeaves

    "Neighbors the best comedy since Bridesmaids."

    Well, I thought Bridesmaids was not funny, so I doubt I'll watch this one, either.

  • stella

    Im so glad this is good! Ive been looking forward to it a lot.

  • Jenn Hamm

    This review got me so pumped!!!!

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Byrne, not Burn.

  • Donna SHerman

    Honestly, I wasn't sure if that was a joke or not. It's spelled correctly later in the article...

    Sometimes I wish I was still copy editing here.

  • BWeaves

    I think Autocorrect is to blame. It drives me crazy.

    You can go back and fix it and it'll still sneak in and make it wrong again.

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    It's called "Bad Neighbours" here in the UK. I don't know why they needed to add the "bad". But definitely going to watch it.

  • foolsage

    I'd wager it's probably so people won't confuse it with "Neighbours", the Aussie soap opera, which is very popular in the U.K.

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    Is it? I'm really not well versed on my UK TV soaps. I didn't even know it was still on!

  • Cowtools

    There's an ad playing in Australia right now that features Seth Rogan singing the Neighbours theme song. It's horrifying.

  • Jericho Smith

    So people won't confuse it with the TV show "Good Neighbors"?

  • Davis

    No the australian tv show Neighbours. It's quite popular

  • Guest

    Rose Byrne... is profoundly amazing in this EVERYTHING*.

    *I've seen her at least.

    **Thanks for the review D.R.

  • Cowtools

    You should all track down the 1997 Aussie gangster movie with Heath Ledger she was in: 'Two Hands'. It was awesome.

  • Lee

    Back when Rose was in low budget Aussie films, she always had a very low key presence, so I've been very surprised to see her reach the heights she has, and display these comedic chops. Very impressed, Rose.

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    Did you see "I give it a year"? Or whatever it was called? It was horrible! HORRIBLE! She plays a character without any redeeming qualities, who falls in love with the smarmiest douche that ever smarmed and...ugh! Anyway...I feel like she owes me something good after that shitfest.

  • Guest

    Comment Amended. Missed that one. She is just so damn gorgeous I tend to over look anything she does that isn't at Damages level.

  • Naye

    Can I just get a shouts for Wicker Park, which isn't the best movie, but her performance touched my little loser longing for love self to the core, and always makes my list for favorites.

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