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This image released by Universal Pictures shows Seth Rogen in a scene from ‘Neighbors’. (AP)
High-concept gags in ‘Neighbors’ ‘Scenes memorable, exceptional’

I want to live in Nicholas Stoller’s world. In his last film, the bewilderingly underrated “The Five-Year Engagement,” he demonstrated an impressive sense of fairness when mediating the protracted resentments between unhappy fiances Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. Stoller displays a similar empathy for both sides of a feud in “Neighbors,” and it’s that rare emotional intelligence — along with the film’s sly, surprising jokes and self-aware sidestepping of comedy cliches — that makes this Seth Rogen vehicle an instant classic.
As the first couple among their friends to move to the ‘burbs and pop out a kid, Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen and Rose Byrne) are anxious about losing their cool cred even before a frat house full of perpetual spring breakers moves in next door. Mac and Kelly’s first night as neighbors to a herd of party monsters gives them the chance to binge on beer and blunts like they’re skipping class tomorrow. But when Delta Psi prez Teddy (Zac Efron) and his right-hand dude Pete (Dave Franco) throw parties night after night, the new parents scheme to rid the house next door of its frat infestation.

Ambitious
Efron’s ultramarine eyes twinkle with a sociopathic glint, but Stoller and writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien aspire to something much more ambitious than a showdown between the good bougies and the petty millennials. Teddy spends a pitifully huge amount of time planning a kegger for the ages, but he and Pete ensure that the fraternity is a real brotherhood. His natural leadership abilities allow him to foil one of Mac and Kelly’s plans — to turn a pledge named Assjuice (Craig Roberts) against his housemates — with an unexpectedly kind pep talk, ultimately earning the teen’s admiring loyalty.
 

Delta Psi also boasts the film’s most interesting relationship, that between slacker Teddy and studious Pete. As graduation looms closer, their friendship is strained by their inevitably divergent paths, and Stoller uses their increasing distance to ask compelling questions about hedonism and debauchery. “Neighbors” is keenly aware that college is a bubble, and thus mines real poignancy from the fact that Teddy is using his vendetta against Mac and Kelly to distract himself from his uncertain future.
While the fully developed relationships between the characters ground the film, the high-concept gags will keep audiences’ bellies sore from laughter. The back-and-forth pranks between the Radners and the frat house escalate in nastiness and hilarity, and self-contained flights of comic fancy keep the jokes rolling in, as when Teddy and Pete affirm their bond by trying to think of as many different ways to say “bros before hos” as possible.
Revealing
A shirtless, sometimes pants-less Rogen aims for somewhere between Will Ferrell and Lena Dunham in revealing his body; the effect is both amusingly repulsive and politically transgressive. And because it wouldn’t be a Seth Rogen movie without a bazillion cameos, we’re treated to memorable scenes with comedy pros Hannibal Burress, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Mantzoukas and Randall Park.
What makes “Neighbors” exceptional, rather than merely great, is its successful attempt to reinvent the studio comedy. Stoller, Cohen, and O’Brien acknowledge how dreadfully formulaic and subtly (or not-so-subtly) sexist the genre has become — there’s that sense of fairness again - in a scene where Mac and Kelly point out their fat guy-hot wife dynamic.
“Neighbors” doesn’t give the always excellent Byrne as much to do as Rogen, but she has at least one richly layered scene that proves Stoller and his writers aren’t just all talk. Kelly initiates a kiss at one of the frat parties, but in context is something much more thrilling, devious, and hilariously mortifying (for Mac).
It’s one of this very funny film’s comic highlights, and a great (if unnecessary) illustration that the killjoy-wife trope is more tired than a hibernating CGI bear voiced by Kevin James.


Also:
LOS ANGELES: The Seth Rogen-Zac Efron comedy “Neighbors” is poised to pull off the summer’s first box-office stunner and knock “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” out of the top spot after just one weekend.
Universal’s R-rated frat boys vs. family romp is tracking to open north of $35 million, but analysts said Tuesday they expect it will come closer to $40 million. If Sony’s Marvel superhero sequel falls off 60 percent from its $91 million opening last weekend - which looks like a distinct possibility — it will come in at $37 million.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” looks vulnerable for several reasons.
The biggest is the combination of mediocre reviews — 55 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes — and weak word of mouth, evidenced by the so-so “B+” CinemaScore first-night audiences gave it
Spidey brought in $5.1 million at the box office on Monday. That’s the lowest first-Monday haul of any of the four previous entries in the franchise. It’s well under the $7.5 million that “The Amazing Spidier-Man” did in 2012, and less than half of the $11 million that the original “Spider-Man” managed in 2002.
“It’s going to be close,” BoxOffice.com vice-president and senior analyst Phil Contrino told TheWrap. “I don’t know that ‘Spider-Man’ is going to fall as far as 60 percent, but the word of mouth has not been good and that Monday number is telling.”
Superhero movies are typically front-loaded and often take steep tumbles in their second weeks. Even April’s very well-reviewed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” fell off 56 percent from its $95 million first weekend, 2014’s best opening, and it received an “A” CinemaScore.
If there is an upset — that Spidey would dominate the box office until “Godzilla” lands on May 16 was seen as a given a month ago — it will have as much to do with the surge by “Neighbors” as it does any weakness of the webslinger.
“Neighbors” has been building buzz since it wowed the crowd at the CinemaCon theaters owners gathering in Las Vegas last month. The reaction to the red-band trailer has been through the roof. And on Twitter and Facebook it’s pacing well ahead of “This Is the End,” Rogen’s raunchy comedy that was a breakout hit for Sony last summer.
“It shows just how powerful an R-rated comedy can be in summer,” said Exhibitor Relations vice-president and senior analyst Jeff Bock, “especially if it’s from Universal.” The studio has scored in recent years with raunchy hits including “Ted,” “Bridesmaids” and “Knocked Up.” (RTRS)
That sort of movie typically does best with young males and that isn’t good news for “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which targets the same crowd and families. And “Neighbors” is showing strength in other demographics as well.
“Even though much of the film takes place at a frat house, it’s also a sweet and thoughtful story about a young couple trying to make life work with a new baby, so ‘Neighbors’ plays as a great date movie,” said Dave Karger, chief correspondent at Fandango. On Tuesday, “Neighbors” was doing twice the advance ticket sale business that “This Is the End” did.
“Most audiences will go to ‘Neighbors’ knowing most about Seth Rogen’s and Zac Efron’s roles,” said Karger, “but Rose Byrne, already a recognizable face from ‘Bridesmaids,’ may emerge as the biggest breakout from the film. Besides being emotional heart of ‘Neighbors,’ Byrne boasts some of the movie’s best sight gags and one-liners.”
If Spidey does sputter domestically, it will be a major concern for Sony, which has already set sequels for 2016 and 2018, and is developing two spinoffs based on its villains.
The saving grace for the $200 million-plus “Amazing Spider-Man 2” could still be overseas. It’s performing better abroad than its predecessor, which took in $490 million from abroad, and has already brought more than $300 million internationally and is bearing down on $400 million worldwide after three weeks.
“Don’t tell that to Sony’s stockholders,” Contrino said. The studio has been under fire since last summer, when costly flops “After Earth” and “White House Down” drove activist shareholder Daniel Loeb to bludgeon the studio for being profligate and urge a spinoff of the entertainment division. (RTRS)

By Inkoo Kang


By: Inkoo Kang

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