By Anne Thompson and Ryan Lattanzio | Thompson on Hollywood May 7, 2014 at 12:44PM
Universal Pictures smartly debuted "Neighbors," the raunchy, R-rated comedy starring Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Zac Efron as the titular domestic warmongers, at SXSW 2014, where it picked up great word-of-mouth from festival-goers and critics alike. (Red Band trailer and Rogen on Conan O'Brien below.)
These two male leads couldn't be further apart, in both looks and appeal. But therein lies the humor of Nicholas Stoller's directorial followup to 2008's smash hit "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" --since then he's been the screenwriter sauce behind the two recent "Muppets" movies, "The Five-Year Engagement," "Get Him to the Greek" and "Yes Man."
Stoller is the real deal. This well-constructed contemporary comedy reveals Rogen and "Bridesmaids" star Rose Byrne at their whip-smart best as hip young parents who are reveling in their new baby (the most adorable movie baby ever) until new neighbors move in next door. It's the nightmare from hell: a raucous fraternity house dominated by ringleader Zac Efron. At first Rogen and Byrne make nice with the enemy, trying a tad too hard to be cool and showing them that they too, baby monitor in hand, can party all night. While Efron and his boys play along, they have no intention of changing their wild ways and the neighbors are soon engaged in all-out war.
Stoller inventively ratchets up the stakes and physical slapstick as the 30-somethings and Efron's frat boys attack and counter. One skit involving the well-placed deployment of exploding airbags is hilarious. Efron is unexpectedly winning as a dimwitted bully with great abs; offering stalwart support are Dave Franco, brother of James, Jake Johnson and Lisa Kudrow. Produced by Mandate ("Juno"), the film was shot in less than two months on an $18 million budget.
Universal should be over the moon when "Neighbors" goes wide on May 9 to boffo box office returns. Here's what critics are saying so far -- and with 100% on the Tomatometer, reviews are across-the-board gold.