“Neighbors” presents a talented cast and a premise brimming with potential, but manages to squander every opportunity for laughs. The battle between young and old allows for humorous musings on opposing lifestyles, but the contrast between the two forces rarely steps into the spotlight. In addition to the lack of distinction amongst the adversaries, neither side is shown to be preferable or even slightly more virtuous. No serious characters appear amidst the often nonsensical antics, while a bipolar reorientation in comedic tone results in further ennui towards the face-off. Hints of slapstick and the occasional awkward confrontation prove amusing, but the generally juvenile humor dulls quickly, as do the gross-out gags and chaotic mash-ups of mood swings.
Attempting to lead a more responsible, “grownup” life with the arrival of their baby Stella, parents Kelly (Rose Byrne) and Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) purchase a new home in an idyllic, peaceful neighborhood. When a rowdy fraternity known for their boisterous parties moves in next door, the couple determines the only way to maintain some semblance of peace and quiet is to make friends – a plan that backfires when Kelly and Mac betray the trust of Delta Psi Beta’s president, Teddy (Zac Efron). Now at odds, the duo and the fraternity engage in a series of pranks that quickly escalates into vandalism and undermining, forcing Kelly and Mac to realize their only way out is to get back in – to carry out one last act of espionage that will rid them of the troublesome teenagers once and for all.
Plenty of inconsistencies arise in “Neighbors.” Comic relief abounds at every turn, yet there are no sincere roles to counter the jokers; the boundaries of reality are tested via a recurring airbag gimmick (implicating felonies) and drawn out sequences of roughhousing; and the subject of the film alternates between revenge, a heist, maturation, college mayhem, and familial woes. The themes of old versus young, responsibility versus reckless partying, and children versus adults are of an equally conflicting nature, considering that the older characters partake in youthful dalliances (weed, mushrooms, imbibing), they contemplate taking their infant to a rave, and both groups rotate from superior positions to submissive ones (from getting lectured to begging forgiveness to orchestrating plots of infiltration and sabotage).
Initial impish observations on marriage, babies, and life after becoming a parent are quickly overtaken by Seth Rogen’s signature adlibbed crassness and the arrival of shirtless fraternity hunks. Riffs on farting, dildos, pubic hair, lactation, erections, and rape become significantly more prominent than the cleverer few seconds of backfiring conspiring and statements about intelligence (basic concepts denote that parents are smart yet boring and that college students are promiscuous and uninhibited idiots). It’s particularly fitting that the main conflict culminates in a cartoonish fistfight. The scope of comedy in “Neighbors” is primarily spontaneous obnoxiousness, where some of it goes too far, a few sequences don’t go far enough, and most of it goes nowhere at all. Perhaps the most aggravating bit regards the dismissive way in which the film isolates the Radners as the only family having disputes with the adjacent frat house – despite a packed block of neighbors.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)