Blu-ray Review: Neighbors (2014)

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A huge summer comedy hit, the Nicholas Stoller-directed Neighbors packs quite a few laugh-out-loud moments while never quite cutting as deeply as it might’ve. The chemistry between stars Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne as a married couple adjusting to life as new parents is what keeps the whole thing afloat. Frat house high jinks led by Zac Efron cover more familiar territory, but it’s the story of reformed party animals easing into a more conventional adult lifestyle that makes Neighbors worth watching (and re-watching).

Few current young actors convey exasperated anxiety better than Seth Rogen. At times seeming like a Gen X combination of Woody Allen and Albert Brooks, Rogen plays office drone Mac Radner. He and wife Kelly (Byrne) live in a nice neighborhood where they’re raising their infant daughter, Stella (Elise and Zoey Vargas). Their suburban mellow is suddenly harshed by the arrival of Delta Psi Beta, a rowdy fraternity that buys the house next door. The first half of Neighbors is easily the superior one, with Mac and Kelly attempting to pass themselves off as the cool, only slightly older couple that can still enjoy a house party. Of course, their ulterior motive for being so ingratiating is the futile goal of getting frat leaders Teddy (Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) to keep the noise level down.

Neighbors 3 (380x254).jpgMac and Kelly’s broken promise to never call the police as a first line of defense leads to a battle of wits between the Radners and Delta Psi Beta. Generally speaking, the frat boys have the upper hand, leading to a number of over the top sight gags and set pieces. But randomly hidden air bags (improbably placed in areas the boys would never have access to) and a frat member, Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), with an oversized member aren’t among the film’s finer moments. Slapstick and sex gags have become alarmingly old hat these days. The heart of Neighbors lies in watching Mr. and Mrs. Radner slowly realize that their irresponsible youth has passed them by and it’s time to step up to the world of adulthood.

Neighbors 4 (380x253).jpgThat’s not to say there aren’t good moments between Efron and Franco. The latter plays a “child of divorce” and an intellectual overachiever who recognizes how fleeting (and ultimately unimportant) all their fraternity rituals really are. Co-writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien throw in just enough character development to add a bit of emotional heft to the proceedings. On the surface, it’s about a couple’s desire to force their unruly neighbors out of their house (while considering the real possibility that they’ll need to move themselves). It’s funny, but the filmmakers might’ve had a real classic on their hands had they dug deeper (sexual tension between milf supreme Kelly and the frat boys is barely hinted at, for instance) instead of getting wrapped up in silliness like dildo fights and the like.

Neighbors 2 (380x254).jpgTerrific Blu-ray technical specs make Neighbors another high definition winner from Universal. Brandon Trost’s digital cinematography is presented as sharply as is expected of a 2014 studio production. Colors are vivid, black levels are deep, and overall this is an excellent transfer. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix is equally on par with modern Blu-ray presentation, with strong LFE activity and plenty of immersive sound effects.

Exclusive Blu-ray special features include an alternate opening (wisely cut as it offers some superfluous backstory for the fraternity), deleted/alternate scenes (thankfully allowing us to see more of Lisa Kudrow, whose part was mercilessly reduced to a cameo in the final cut), and an “On the Set with…” featurette. Standard special features include a funnier-than-average gag reel and a “Line-o-Rama” outtake reel. There are a couple short, superficial featurettes to round out the supplements. The Blu-ray package also includes a standard DVD and Digital HD download.

Neighbors may not be one for the ages, but there’s plenty of repeat-viewing value here to make it worth acquiring—especially for Seth Rogan and/or Zac Efron fans.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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