If you’re thinking of classic frat comedies, Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds and Old School no doubt come to mind. Many movies have tried to join those three on the pedestal, only to fall short for any number of reasons. But will Neighbors one day be able to complete the Mount Rushmore of this genre?
An early indication is that it certainly stands a chance (because a legacy can rarely be formed after one weekend in theaters). But in terms of quality, Neighbors gets just about everything right that’s needed to earn consideration as one of the best.
Perhaps the most glaring knock against Neighbors, though, is that it doesn’t quite have a character that could become an all-time great, one that is instantly quotable while completely transcending the concept. A zeitgeist-y figure, a character you’ll find on posters plastered all over dorm walls for years to come.
Of any character in the movie, Zac Efron’s Teddy stands the best chance to reach that status; his brothers at Delta Psi simply don’t stack up on their own, though that was overcome in this case, as the sum of the parts was much more captivating than the individual performances, which was especially evident in the movie’s memorable climax.
With that in mind, the movie should also be looked at as a whole, and in that regard, it certainly makes its best case to assume a standing among the giants of the genre. Rose Byrne, Ike Barinholtz and Efron deliver especially strong performances, while Seth Rogen is his usual dependable self. At this point in his career, Rogen has made it clear what you’re going to get with him in each role, and that works great for a movie like Neighbors.
There were multiple scenes that had a packed theater laughing uproariously, but what works so well for Neighbors is the undeniable feeling I had to want to be there. A college comedy is a success when it works to the point of becoming a vicarious experience, having you wish you could join in on just one more unhinged party; Neighbors works hard to achieve that.
But at the same time, this movie accomplishes something none of the other three classics did. It makes the concept of being out of college and starting a family just as enticing, not frightening. Which makes the frat element work even better, because that desperation to live like there are no consequences and the understanding that it’s all so fleeting is what partly makes college such an adventure in the first place. And as Teddy himself realizes, the absurdity and carefree life of college does end eventually, but that doesn’t mean it’s all downhill from there. In fact, it gets that much better.
For its dive into depths unknown to the traditional frat movie, Neighbors has earned the right to party forever.