Neighbors (2014)

(On Cable TV, May 2015) Complaining that college fraternity comedy Neighbors is too frat-boyish is entirely missing the point of the film and yet… it may still be a worthwhile point.  As someone with fresh memories of taking care of a baby, I expected to feel more sympathy for the protagonist couple of this film, as they try to live next door to a fraternity house with raucous parties.  But there’s a limit to the respectability of a protagonist when he’s played by Seth Rogen: weed addiction, profanity and raunchiness usually follow in close succession, and his performance as a flawed father in Neighbors is no exception.  (I had to restrain myself from muttering a few instances of “Bad parenting!  Bad parenting!”)  I’m not going to pretend that the film isn’t funny: Both Rose Byrne and Zac Efron get a chance to earn theirs laughs and the escalation of absurdity between the protagonists and the frat-house denizens gets steadily more ludicrous.  This is quality comedy, sometimes sloppy in its details but dynamic from beginning to end.  For all of the reprehensible humor of the film, most characters get a few more introspective moments than strictly warranted and there’s a bit of thematic content about impending adulthood running through the film… all without ruining the often go-for-broke comedy.  The very thing that makes Neighbors annoying (the irresponsibility of its so-called protagonists) is exactly what makes the film a bit deeper than expected.  While it won’t become a classic, Neighbors should, at least, earn a grudging respect, even when it dips a bit too deeply into gross dumbness.

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