By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — "Animal House"-style antics, with moral anarchy to match, are showcased in the smutty frat-themed comedy "Neighbors" (Universal).
The film’s premise is a scenario that would likely scare any suburbanite: Newly minted parents Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are dismayed to discover that the house next to theirs has been sold to a Greek-letter society.
Anxious to safeguard their tranquil lifestyle, Mac and Kelly initially try a friendly approach toward the chapter’s two leading brothers, President Teddy (Zac Efron) and VP Pete (Dave Franco). The fact that their housewarming gift is a cache of marijuana more or less sets the tone for everything that follows.
Mac and Kelly enjoy a night of revelry courtesy of their newfound friends. But when Teddy subsequently ignores their repeated pleas to moderate the group’s noisy partying, the couple turns to the police to quell it. Since Teddy takes this as a personal betrayal, an escalating conflict begins, pitting the thirtysomethings against the party boys.
Slapstick pranks involving suddenly inflating airbags in unexpected places are just about the only gags that don’t cross the line into tastelessness. Other jokes ill-advisedly mine such topics as hazing, sex toys and casual hook-ups for laughs. And what could be more hilarious than Mac and Kelly’s infant daughter finding a condom on their lawn after yet another night of uninhibited high jinks next door?
To the extent that director Nicholas Stoller’s celebration of collegiate irresponsibility makes any stab at seriousness, it concerns the middle-aged envy this same recklessness excites in Mac and Kelly.
This is presented as the underlying psychological factor driving their increasingly frantic efforts to foil the fraternity. It’s mirrored, according to Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien’s script, by Teddy’s fear that he’ll wind up as blandly respectable as they are.
Though this Peter-Pan message is somewhat moderated by a positive portrayal of Mac and Kelly’s bond, they are never shown to reconcile themselves to adulthood. The joys of marriage and parenthood, it seems, can hardly compete with the babes, spliffs and beer kegs of the frat house.
The film contains some harsh nonlethal violence, strong sexual content, including graphic marital and nonmarital activity, full nudity and same-sex kissing, a benign view of drug use, pervasive sexual and occasional scatological humor, a handful of profanities and continuous rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
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