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Friday, October 31, 2014

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Susan Granger's review of 'Neighbors'

Published 4:22 pm, Friday, May 9, 2014
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Real estate values can plummet overnight. Just ask newlywed Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and his wife, Kelly (Rose Byrne), the anxious, sleep-deprived parents of Stella, their adorable baby girl. Just as they're adjusting to living a more adult life in quiet suburbia, they discover that the Delta Psi Beta fraternity has moved into the house next door.

Yearning to appear "cool" to the college dudes, the Radners indulge in friendly, welcoming overtures: a perfectly rolled joint, sharing magic mushrooms. But that doesn't stop the frat's president Teddy (Zac Efron) and vice president Pete (Dave Franco) from adopting a defiantly raucous, party-hearty attitude. So it's not long before the beleaguered couple must summon the police, which leads to a frenzied, ever-escalating neighborhood feud.

Visually inventive director Nicholas Stoller, working with talented newbie screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, stages an impressive bacchanal, filled with pranks, debauchery, slapstick violence and repeated jokes about smoking pot and penis size. It's far raunchier and less coherent than Stoller's previous comedies: "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Five-Year Engagement" and "Get Him to the Greek."

Comedian Rogen ("This Is the End," TV's "Arrested Development") makes the transition to parenthood, while Byrne ("Bridesmaids," TV's "Damages"), relishing the righteous, foul-mouthed repartee, deftly keeps up with him in the comedy department. Having long ago graduated from high school musicals, often-shirtless Efron grasps the unspoken, yet ominous reality that, inevitably, antagonistic, alpha-male Teddy will someday have to grow up too.

The supporting cast includes Ike Barinholtz as Mac's and Kelly's buddy, along with Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Craig Roberts as the frat boys. Lisa Kudrow (TV's "Friends") does her bit as the university dean who reveals that the fraternity is on probation with only one disciplinary strike left before it's shut down.

Even with some surprising cameos, "Neighbors" doesn't measure up to its grossed-out predecessors like "Animal House" or "Old School," offering several epilogues while desperately searching for an appropriately funny ending.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Neighbors" is an energetic, engagingly stupid 7, exemplifying outrageous, intergenerational warfare.