Movie Review: 'Neighbors' with Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne

PHOTO: This image released by Universal Pictures shows Rose Byrne, left, and Seth Rogen in a scene from "Neighbors."

Starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne

Rated R

Four out of five stars

Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) are a young married couple madly in love with each other. They also have a new baby, and a house. In other words, they're suddenly adults. No more all-night benders, no more sex without the baby present, perhaps even watching. But that's the price you pay for growing up, and you know what? The Radners are happy.

Until a fraternity moves next door.

Mac and Kelly immediately recognize what that means: noise! Noise that will wake the baby. So the Radners head next door to make nice with their new neighbors. Mac bonds with frat president Teddy (Zac Efron) over copious amounts of drugs, booze, and a wonderful cross-generational conversation about Michael Keaton’s Batman vs. Christian Bale’s Batman. Now they're more than neighbors -- they’re bros! Teddy asks just one thing of Mac: if there's ever too much noise, don't call the cops. Talk to him first.

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The following night, the frat throws another wild party. After leaving Teddy numerous voicemails, Mac breaks his promise and calls the cops. A heartbroken Teddy declares war on Mac, and the fun begins.

On the surface, "Neighbors" seems a tit-for-tat revenge comedy, but that premise serves as a terrific metaphor. Mac is struggling to break free of his youth and become a full-fledged adult, while Teddy, a college senior who's ill-prepared to head into the workforce, is desperate to stave off the future. Mac and Teddy are really at war with themselves.

Kelly, as Mac’s willing and able general, co-conspirator and self-proclaimed Mama Bear, is willing to do whatever it takes to get the frat out of that house and ensure a nice life for her family. Byrne is asked to do a few outrageous things here and not only is completely game, she proves to be a great scene partner for Rogen. Teddy has Dave Franco’s Pete, his best friend and fraternity vice president. Franco ("21 Jump Street," TV's "Scrubs"), the younger brother of James, is the perfect combination of smart and absurd. What starts out as a somewhat grating performance turns into one of the movie's strongest and funniest.

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Seth Rogen again proves he's one of the best comedy actors we have, but kudos to Zac Efron for making a real impact here, completely shedding his High School Musical character and proving that he can roll with someone as on his game as Rogen.

Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien’s script is profane to be sure, but it's also intelligent, filled with entertaining and flawed characters. It's those flaws that elicit our empathy, making it particularly difficult to pick a side to root for. Director Nicholas Stoller seems to excel at these sorts of comedies, nailing it with "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Get Him to the Greek," and now, "Neighbors."

Four out of five stars.

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