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Film Review of the Week: Neighbors 

Producer/director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) didn't have anything to do with Neighbors, the new comedy starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and Rose Byrne that opens areawide on Friday. But with its awkward sex moments (we see a half-naked Rogen on more than one occasion), witty dialogue, sharp slapstick humor and over-the-top shenanigans, it sure seems like an Apatow movie. While not quite a cult classic, it makes for a good summer comedy (and it helps that Byrne and Rogen are in such good form).

The rather flimsy premise centers on Kelly (Byrne) and Mac (Rogen), a young couple who are trying to put their party-hearty ways behind them and focus on raising their newborn baby in a safe environment. When a fraternity moves into the house next to their home, they initially try to befriend the group. They invite themselves to a party and even offer Teddy (Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) some pot as a peace offering of sorts. Despite the age difference, Mac and Kelly really hit it off with the college kids.

But the friendship doesn't last.

After Mac calls the cops to shut down a particularly wild party, the neighbors find themselves at odds with each other. And they'll do just about anything to get the upper hand. Mac, at one point, busts the water pipes in the frat house basement. Teddy and Pete steal the airbags out of Kelly's car and plant them in strategic places that, if sat upon, will cause serious bodily harm. The frat ends up with two strikes against it and Mac and Kelly devise a way in which the guys can get a third strike and be forced to shut down.

The film's climax won't be any sort of huge revelation — suffice it to say that the frat throws the biggest party of the year in an attempt to leave behind a legacy that frat houses will remember for all of eternity, and Kelly and Mac try to find a way to infiltrate the party and turn Pete and Teddy against each other. We won't tell you who wins, but it ain't hard to guess.

Director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) doesn't always nail the pacing (the film hits a mid-movie lull), but he gets great performances out of Rogen and Byrne. It's a testament to the actors' comedic skills that they can make their one-dimensional characters really work. And while Franco and Efron aren't particularly well known for being funny, they hold their own too.

The film probably has one too many dick jokes, but that's a minor criticism. The year hasn't produced a wealth of good comedies, so this movie benefits from arriving at the right time and being in the right place.

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September 23, 2020

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