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Comedy films often work best with a simple premise; complicate the story too much and there won’t be enough room for jokes. Neighbors has a very simple premise, but it’s also a good one: what if a fraternity moved in next door? This solid premise should have delivered great jokes that generate big laughs, but one can’t help feeling underwhelmed. Sure, there are some chuckles to be had, but there’s certainly not enough to make this comedy as hilarious as it should have been.

Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are a young couple with a newborn daughter. They’re having trouble adjusting to their new lifestyle and they may not want to give up their youth just yet. One day, a fraternity moves into the house next door to them. They visit the house and talk to the fraternity’s leader Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) and ask him to keep the noise down. Teddy agrees, as long as they promise to come to him with any complaints and not call the police. Mac and Kelly agree to this promise, but end up breaking it one night when Teddy doesn’t answer his phone. They call the cops and upset Teddy in the process. He decides to make Mac and Kelly’s life a living hell, but they’re not going down without a fight.

Written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, the film’s script doesn’t supply enough jokes to keep audience members laughing through the entire film. When the laughs do come, they mostly amount to a few chuckles here and there, with only a few truly hilarious scenes in the whole film. This is a raunchy movie, which is perfectly fine, but this film’s raunchy jokes feel like they are simply there to gross out audience members and earn an R rating. Raunchy jokes can be hysterical if they are done well, but here they lack the wit and cleverness that many of Seth Rogen’s best films have had. While the film’s script fails to deliver the jokes, it does successfully provide each major character with a well-constructed character arc. Mac and Kelly terrorizing the fraternity to stay young and Teddy terrorizing the family next door because of his fear of growing old adds a nice dose of warmth into what could have been a very cynical film.

Even though the film isn’t as funny as it should have been, director Nicholas Stoller always keeps the film incredibly watchable. With a short runtime, the film moves along at a nice pace and never drags. This is a great looking film and the party scenes within the fraternity’s house are especially gorgeous. Stoller and cinematographer Brandon Trost give each party a distinct look and personality, despite taking place in the same location.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne have excellent chemistry together and Zac Efron gives what might be the best performance of his career, but even they can’t save Neighbors from feeling like a disappointment. The film is put together nicely, but most of the humor can’t live up to the film’s great premise. Leaving the theater, one can’t help but wonder how much funnier this could have been. What should have been the best comedy of the summer is nothing more than a passable 96 minutes.

Neighbors receives 2/4

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