Blu-ray Review Comedy

Love thy Blu-ray Review: Neighbors

September 29, 2014Ben Mk


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The frat pack...

When you think of modern comedy duos, a few names immediately spring to mind: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler; Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum; and Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie. Two names that might not be as obvious, however, are Seth Rogen and Zac Efron. As unlikely as their pairing might seem on paper, it turns out the two actors share a hilarious on-screen chemistry together. And in director Nicholas Stoller's latest film, they try their best to earn a spot on that list, starring as not-so-friendly neighbors who wage all-out suburban warfare on one another.

   

The Film Rogen is Mac Radner, who, along with his wife, Kelly (Rose Byrne), has just entered an uncharted new phase of his life. Married with an adorable baby daughter named Stella and a new home in the 'burbs, the college sweethearts are desperately trying to reconcile their newfound parental responsibilities with their former carefree lifestyle. But squeezing in one-on-one time with each other is a constant struggle, especially when their friends, the once-married-but-now-divorced Jimmy (The Mindy Project's Ike Barinholtz) and Paula (Bones' Carla Gallo), never fail to remind them of the youthful freedoms they've had to sacrifice.

Whatever progress they're making in their new lives comes to a screeching halt when college fraternity Delta Psi Beta — who are on a mission to make a name for themselves as the hardest-partying fraternity on or off campus — sets up shop in the house next door. And they're poised to make Mac and Kelly's lives a living nightmare.

Sensing impending doom, the couple try to make nice with the alpha dogs of the frat, chiseled college senior Teddy (Efron) and his best bro Pete (Dave Franco), building a rapport with them over magic mushrooms and Batman impersonations. Mac and Kelly even arrive at a mutual understanding with Teddy, agreeing to call him — and not the cops — with any noise complaints. But when Delta Psi's raucous partying gets out of hand, they're forced to break that promise, landing them in Teddy's bad books and igniting a prank-filled feud with the fraternity.

Ludicrous laughs ensue as each side tries to one-up the other in a series of misguided pranks and childish antics. Property is devalued, relationships are nearly ruined, and lives are put in jeopardy. Yet tucked away amid the crude comic mayhem — somewhere between Teddy and his frat brothers molding sex toys in their own image, Pete putting his special ability to "rise to any occasion" to good use, and Mac literally milking Kelly (validating a long-forgotten hypothesis from Meet the Parents) — is a genuinely relatable story about people trying to deal with life crises.

For Mac and Kelly, it all stems from their parental anxieties and fears of becoming socially irrelevant, whereas for Teddy it's the looming uncertainty of life post-graduation. But with the escalation of their conflict also comes the realization that life brings change, and that in order to move forward they must change as well.

Rogen, Byrne and Efron excel at portraying the duality of their characters — both their ridiculous idiosyncrasies and their emotional subtleties — lending ample credence to the storytelling. And it's this added depth that ultimately elevates the film above and beyond what might otherwise be considered just another raunchy summertime comedy.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Neighbors raises the roof on Blu-ray with a sharp, vibrant and boisterous A/V presentation. As is to be expected of a recent theatrical release, the crisp hi-def transfer boasts no noticeable image defects (macroblocking, artifacting, banding, or the ilk). The image does, however, benefit from modest film grain and the presence of ample fine detail, allowing for an accurate reproduction of the film's theatrical exhibition, with faces, people and objects appearing cleanly resolved at all times. Contrast and black levels are also spot-on, and they're complimented by bright and richly saturated colors (especially the phosphorescent lighting employed by cinematographer Brandon Trost during the party sequences set inside the frat house), bringing appreciable depth to the visuals.

Audio-wise, the movie's comedy stylings means its soundstage encompasses many a dialogue-driven scene. However, there's also a fair bit of partying up on-screen, and that's where the disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack really shines. Featured songs like Ozzy Osbourne's "Let's Go" and Missy Elliot's "Get Ur Freak On" provide plenty of opportunity to put viewers' sound systems (especially their subwoofers) through their paces, as does the the hilariously out-of-control finale, which is brought to life by 360 degrees of chanting crowds, exploding fireworks and wall-to-wall insanity.

Special Features Universal's Blu-ray release is considerably lighter in the special features department than Stoller's previous films (The Five-Year Engagement, Get Him to the Greek and Forgetting Sarah Marshall). There's no unrated cut of the movie, but the package does include DVD and iTunes/UltraViolet digital copies, as well as 51 minutes of HD special features.

The majority of those special features are in the form of featurettes: An Unlikely Pair is a 6-minute look at Rogen and Efron's comedy chemisty; Partying with the Neighbors is a 7-minute exploration of the characters portrayed by Rogen, Byrne, Barinholtz and Gallo; On the Set with... spends 4 minutes examining the FX work behind the various fake male appendages that appear in the movie; and the actors who play the Delta Psi brotherhood (Efron, Franco, Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Craig Roberts) get their 6 minutes of fame in The Frat.

There's also a 7-minute Alternate Opening that answers the question of what happened to Delta Psi's previous frat house, ten Deleted/Alternate Scenes ("History", "Babysitter", "Shaving", "Playdate", "Negotiations", "Please be Porn", "Realty", "Airbags", "Good for Me" and "Watch Me ;-)") totaling 13 minutes, the 3-minute Line-O-Rama (which showcases the cast's improvisational skills) and a 6-minute Gag Reel.


The Bottom Line Not surprisingly, Neighbors delivers ten-fold on its promise of gut-busting sophomoric humor. But viewers may be taken aback by how much they find themselves empathizing with its characters in-between the laughs. Because for all the other body parts (plastic or otherwise) that find their way on-screen, Stoller and company also manage to squeeze a little bit of heart in there as well. Likewise, Universal's Blu-ray release is also quite well-rounded, thanks to its impressive A/V presentation and modest selection entertaining extras. An unrated cut of the film would have been the icing on the cake, but even without it, Neighbors on Blu-ray still deserves a hearty recommendation.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  





* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on May 9th, 2014.




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