It’s tough being a hip new parent, balancing life-changing responsibility while maintaining a healthy respect for youthful indiscretion and staying current enough to know the difference between Young Jeezy and Young the Giant.
That’s exactly the quandary for Mac and Kelly in Neighbors, an intermittently funny but ultimately wearing take on the concept from Nicholas Stoller, the director of more humorous sub-Judd Apatow movies such as The Five-Year Engagement and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Seth Rogen is Mac, a bro turned dad, and Rose Byrne is his wife, Kelly. Neither wants to let parenthood get in the way of their good time. They even get prepped for a night out of clubbing for baby’s first rave — but then by the time they get the stroller and toys together, they’re exhausted.
But, faster than you can say The Wiggles, they find themselves forced on the side of traditionalist parents everywhere when a noisy frat house — run by studly yet stupid Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) and his best bud Pete (Dave Franco) — moves into the empty house next door.
At first, Mac and Kelly try to charm Teddy and the boys by showing they’re into carousing, too. Rogen and Byrne are wonderful when trying to prove how cool Mac and Kelly are and that they’re not going to let a little thing like a baby keep them from getting their party on. Mac even seems to have a bit of a man-crush on Teddy.
They figure this would earn them enough cool capital to be able to call Teddy and tell him to turn the volume down a little during future parties. No such luck. Finally, Mac and Kelly go into full-blown “get off my lawn” mode and the battle lines are drawn.
The problem with Neighbors, written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, is that it takes a clever idea that might have made for a brilliant video short and stretches it to feature length. (Perhaps it’s no accident that Cohen and O’Brien are best known for the well regarded short Acting With James Franco).
Take, for example, the sight gag involving pilfered air bags that’s prominent in the trailers. It’s hilarious the first time, when Rogen goes sailing into the air. But it’s less so as the joke wears on.
The performances are solid. Rogen does his usual, husky-boy geek thing while Efron seems more comfortable as a dreamboat than as a doctor in last year’s Parkland. It’s the script that lets them down.
There’s an old saying that youth is wasted on the young. It’s also wasted in movies like this.