It's been so many long years since I used "party" as a verb (or left the house on Friday night, or saw a movie with language that isn't for little ears) that a little peek into the lives of fictional college kids living it up in a frat house is as good as a trip to another country or planet. That's pretty much where the main characters in Neighbors (with apologies to your Canadian eyes—I know we're missing a "u," but you have to spell it like the movie says) are coming from. Relatively new parents (played adorably convincingly by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), Mac and Kelly are missing out on all of the parties that their old lives had in the B.B. (before baby) times. They're not quite getting the adjustment. As Mac says, to hilarious effect (at least to those of us who put small people to bed just an hour before): "We can have fun and a baby!"
If you can get past the rather ridiculous premise that a fraternity can scrape up the funds to buy a beautiful home in what certainly appears to be a lovely area of town, it's easy to get into the fun of the film. The frat house moves in next door, co-led by Zac Efron and Dave (rent-a-Franco) Franco, and proceeds to use "party" as a verb. And that's waking Mac and Kelly's baby. So, they go over to talk to the guys, and a twisty, comedic battle royale begins.
Rogen and Efron's competitive vibe crackles as the 'old' versus the youth plot heats up, and there is a great scene for us 'elderly' folk in which they bring out their best Batman voices. Later, in a fog of drunken truth telling, Efron's character, feeling he's relating well to Rogen's much older Mac, tells him, "You're like a senior who took a year abroad."
The film manages to renovate some of the college comedy tropes and put a pleasant twist on tired items—like epic party games, the mean Dean, and the legends of frat brothers who went before—and also does a great job with the very weird and real journey faced by so many new parents who suddenly discover that being young, fun, and cool just isn't going to come easily (or be very important) for, oh, the rest of your lives.
Efron's performance is a bit of a stand out, if only because it feels a bit weird to see the young man he's become and possibly feel a tiny bit weird about maybe enjoying the handsomeness of said young man (because High School Musical), but he also invests his character with a kind of manic party mission zeal that is almost creepy in its restrained intensity. As sidekick, Dave Franco, who in my mind is branded "the accessible Franco" (not a bad thing), puts in a steady performance and gets a few great lines of his own.
The only thing I'm still unclear on—how beer pong is played.
Parent review: 4 out of 5
Non-parent review: 3 out of 5
Neighbors is available now on demand and on DVD.