(USA TODAY) Neighbors is the Animal House for an era in which food fights seem quaint.
The outrageous antics of the fraternity fronted by the swaggering Teddy (Zac Efron) are more about fashioning plaster casts of their penises, than donning togas.
Forget the nightmarish Elm Street. The placid suburban neighborhood where Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) and their baby daughter live turns into a veritable riot zone after it's taken over by the Delta Psi Beta frat in Neighbors (*** out of four; rated R; opening Friday nationwide).
Mac and Kelly have the misfortune to live next door to a house that becomes inhabited by a pack of boisterous party animals. At first the couple tries to be neighborly, even cool, about the constant bashes that extend into the wee hours.
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Worried about seeming like cranks, Mac and Kelly initially come in peace to one of the frat's first blow-outs. Soon, Mac is gobbling magic mushrooms and partying a bit too heartily. Kelly chats up simpering bimbos.
But the post-party glow fades fast. A day later, the fraternity's insanity is off the charts. Mac and Kelly's open-mindedness disappears and they call the cops.
Teddy declares war on the thirtysomething couple.
Mac and Kelly fire their first salvo with a visit to a college dean (Lisa Kudrow). The enmity escalates and a full-scale campaign is under way with grown-ups acting as recklessly and immaturely as frat boys.
Rogen and Byrne are appealingly wacky, their comic timing sharp. Efron, not known for his comedic talents, is hilarious as a sophomoric saboteur.
Going back to 1998's There's Something about Mary, every R-rated comedy has tried to out-gross the one that came before. It's as if the bar for bodily humor is raised with each ribald comedy. If Bridesmaids featured a bride-to-be stricken with diarrhea, Neighbors feels compelled to go further. A scene where a breast pump goes horribly wrong is more off-putting than funny.
A few sub-plots could have been jettisoned. Some key narrative elements about Mac's best friend (Ike Barinholtz) seem to have been left on the cutting room floor.
The visual gags are amusing, ribald and inventive. By the conclusion, however, they seem shoehorned together in a frenetic succession of extreme pranks.
Disbelief must be suspended. Anyone who has ever owned or rented a house, or gone to college knows that fraternities don't just move into a quiet suburban neighborhood. The term "frat row" exists for a reason. If, due to some loophole in a zoning ordinance or lapse in university rules, a fraternity moved to an area not intended for student housing and were as noisy and unruly as Delta Psi Beta, surely more than one couple would protest.
Setting aside these logistics, this Revenge of the Bros can be a hoot. Puerile, yes, smutty often, but also a lot of fun. And it's not a boys club when it comes to crazy antics. Byrne gets to be as outrageously funny as Rogen and Efron.
Though it's not for the easily offended, somewhere amid all the vulgarity, the tender bond between Mac and Kelly — especially as they try to find their rightful place on the adult spectrum — adds some surprising depth to this raunchy comedy.
VIDEO: 'Neighbors' follows frat formula