Neighbors ★★★

On the spectrum of hilarious to flatlining, Neighbours seems to find a comfortable position just left of the middle. When its comedic set pieces come together, it’s a truly side-splitting hunk of physical comedy. But when it doesn’t - and it’s painfully obvious where its faults lie - it’s a rather ho-hum submission. Neighbours is weak because it simply isn’t consistent. Its comedic beats are paced oddly, so it doesn’t have much rhythm - more like a bumpy, ill-maintained road with the occasional huge pothole (the potholes are the jokes in this analogy, in case you were wondering).

Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen do a commendable job carrying this film, with their chemistry (or lack thereof) adding substantially to the characters’ relationship. There’s quite a bit of physical comedy here, and the majority of the bits involving Rose and Seth independently are funnier than those that are plot-related. And that kid of theirs is downright adorable.

As you might expect, it’s not from this side of the fence that the film’s issues with character derive. It’s in their neighbours, led by Zac Efron and Dave Franco, that the film often grinds to a halt. Efron occasionally pulls out some surprising emotion, and I’m sure he’s more talented than this career to date would suggest. But this is a comedy. And he’s a terrible casting choice. While Dave Franco does a pretty solid De Niro, that’s about the only positive thing I can say about his contribution. Less competent in the acting department than Efron, Franco has the nasty habit of over-delivering, heavy-handedly sneering lines that could easily have a great deal more comedic strength in a more finessed voice.

Neighbours has its funny moments, and if you can wait out the tired fraternity business (three strikes? we’re doing this again?) you’ll probably enjoy yourself. But then, either way, you’ll probably forget about this film entirely in a couple of years.

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