Someday soon our retirement homes will be filled with tie-dyed and tattooed ex-hipsters who’ll insist that they’re not too old to party. For now, some of those tenacious delinquents are living in suburbia and shopping for baby clothes.
Meet Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), heavily mortgaged parents to newborn daughter Stella. If Kelly were played by Katherine Heigl, we could call this comedy about reluctant adulthood “Knocked Up 2” or “This Is 30.” The Radnors are kin to a growing number of movie couples who refuse to grow up, from Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston in the under-rated “Wanderlust” to Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty in the classic “Lost in America.” (When Mac indulges in the wishful thinking that they can “have it all” — a baby and a fun life — Rogen’s vocal resemblance to Brooks is uncanny.)
The opportunity to test their limits knocks loudly when a fraternity moves into the house next door. The president of the fraternity is hard-partying hunk Teddy (Zac Efron). When the Radnors pay a welcome-wagon call to the new neighbors and gingerly ask them to keep down the noise, Teddy agrees, as long as the cops don’t get involved. To seal the deal, he invites the couple to an epic bash, where bleary-eyed Mac and Teddy bond like age-separated siblings.
But the noise continues nightly, awakening little Stella, and after the Radnors call the cops, Teddy vows to get revenge. A De Niro-themed party is a clever reminder of the stalker-flick “Cape Fear,” but “Neighbors” is fueled by sex-and-drugs humor more than violence.
The sharp recurring theme is that Mac and Kelly still yearn for the reckless freedom they shared before Stella was born. While it’s bust-a-gut funny to watch Mac enact his version of “Old School,” his obvious love for his life partner Kelly gives “Neighbors” a more potent aftertaste than most stoner comedies.
Director Nicolas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) extends some of the sympathy to Teddy, a potentially stock villain who has a complicated bromance with frat vice president Pete (Dave Franco), but Efron isn’t forced to exercise his acting muscles. “Neighbors” is a showcase for Rogen and a coming-out party for Byrne (“Bridesmaids”). It’s a party where we want to stay, until we’re dragged out kicking and screaming.
What “Neighbors” • Three and a half stars out of four • Rating R • Run time 1:36 • Content Pervasive strong language, crude sexual content, drug use and some violence