By Jay Sizemore
Comedies are a hard genre to give a serious critique, because the primary goal of a comedic film is to make the audience laugh, and all the other elements one might normally evaluate don’t really matter that much as long as this goal is met. Having said that, what makes one person laugh might make another person grumble and cross their arms in disgust. Comedy is not an exact science. So, for the most part, any serious critic’s opinion of a comedy can probably be ignored by the general public. Each person debating whether to see a comedy probably knows their own sense of humour well enough to judge if what’s available appeals to their taste. For instance, I believe that Tyler Perry continues to make films because he is financed by the government to produce torture devices for interrogation rooms, and yet, his movies somehow continually make enough money to substantiate their existence. This proves if a comedy can find its audience it can succeed. The real question is, has the movie’s trailer campaign ruined all the funny moments for the audience?
As far as Neighbors goes, the answer to that question is, “No.” Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, along with Rose Byrne and Dave Franco, deliver a highly entertaining romp that hearkens back to a youthful exuberance while at the same time managing to tell an endearing story about letting go of the past and accepting adulthood. It seems to combine elements of classic comedies such as Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds with newer successes like Knocked Up and Crazy, Stupid, Love. I found myself laughing consistently throughout the picture, especially after it got past the intro and found its comedic groove. The core of its comedic impulse seemed to center around Rogen’s personality and his apparently ceaseless ability to riff off of awkward situations. Many of the scenes appeared to be improvised, where the actors were given a situation and multiple takes to come up with the funniest material they could. For the most part, I believe they succeeded, and the chemistry between the actors is very lively and palpable. You can tell they enjoyed themselves, and working with each other, which of course helps elicit good vibes from the audience.
The movie worked best when it was focused on the rivalry between Efron and Rogen’s characters, which luckily constituted the majority of its runtime. It came in a little under its mark when trying to be more than a simple laugh factory, as some of the attempts at establishing a deeper metaphor for transitioning into adulthood were heavy-handed and illogical. However, every good comedy needs some sort of breather between hysterics, and these lulls provide just that. This film is very testosterone driven, coming from a very male perspective, so many of the jokes are of course dealing with sex, the penis, and drugs. In a couple of spots, I think this may have gone too far, especially when one white character says the N-word on screen twice, which to my mind wasn’t justified by the context, but it seemed to draw laughs from the audience I was with. At any rate, the climax of the movie is one of the funniest fight scenes ever put to film, and it had me laughing until the tears rolled freely.
In all, I found Neighbors to be an extremely enjoyable experience, and one I wouldn’t mind revisiting if given the chance. Although I do wonder how many times Seth Rogen can play the same character, one who is perpetually surprised to be having sex it seems, even when it is with his own wife.
Jay Sizemore is a film critic for the magazine.