The comedy “Neighbors” would be worth watching just for the jokes, which are rough, raunchy and ridiculously funny.
But underneath those layers of silliness is a thoughtful, and still funny, undercurrent of meaning — about that awkward transition into full-fledged adulthood.
New parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) dote on their baby daughter, Stella, and have plunked most of their savings into a new house. But, at the same time, they have trouble letting go of their free-spirited pre-parenting days — like when their friend Paula (Carla Gallo) invites them to a rave where Prince might show up.
So when a college fraternity, Delta Psi Beta, moves into the house next door, Mac and Kelly think they can play the cool, hip neighbors — and ask the frat’s president, Teddy (Zac Efron), to turn down the noise late at night. They even try to join the party, which later backfires on them spectacularly.
When, on another night, the frat boys ignore the noise rules, Mac calls the police — but Teddy has video of Mac partying along with them. So the town cop (comic Hannibal Buress) won’t listen to Mac and Kelly, and neither will the college’s overly permissive dean (Lisa Kudrow).
So Mac and Kelly are on their own in their battle against the fraternity. They attempt to sabotage the frat, only to see Teddy and his crew — vice president Pete (Dave Franco) and members Garf (Jerrod Carmichael), Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and others — retaliate with increasingly effective pranks.
Director Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “The Five-Year Engagement”) and rookie screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien get a lot of great jokes out of the frat boys’ party-loving attitude. Especially funny is Teddy’s explanation of Delta Psi Beta’s contributions to party history — with flashbacks to the first toga party and the first beer pong game (with cameo appearances by the “Workaholics” cast and Andy Samberg).
But aside from the pot-smoking jokes and clever sight gags — including one joke that had me doubled over laughing — it is a sweet story about the perils of adulthood. Mac and Kelly must face the truth that they now have to be responsible adults, which gives Rogen and especially Byrne some truly funny moments of arguing. Meanwhile, Teddy’s obsession with frat glory covers up how ill-prepared he is for life after graduation.
Not all the gags work in “Neighbors,” as the pursuit of raunch sometimes overwhelms the laugh potential. But the jokes that land are many, and bust-a-gut funny.
New parents engage in a battle of wills with a fraternity next door in a scathingly funny comedy.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens today.
Rating • R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout.
Running time • 96 minutes.