Neighbors

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NEIGHBORS (Nicholas Stoller). 96 minutes. Opens Friday (May 9). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN


If the trailers for Neighbors make you a little nervous – another dumb comedy about squares versus frats? – you can relax.

That is indeed what Nicholas Stoller’s new movie is about, with new parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) locked in a prank war with the frat that’s moved in next door. But it’s a lot smarter than the pitch.

As he did in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him To The Greek, Stoller manages to interlace the escalating insanity with surprising emotional intelligence. Neighbors isn’t just about stolen airbags and über-keggers it’s about Mac and Kelly’s desperate wish to still identify as young and cool to alpha bro Teddy (Zac Efron) and his followers.

Rogen and Byrne are exactly the right people to play those notes. They find a nice, comfortable chemistry and a physical ease with one another that speaks to a long relationship. And Neighbors also gives Efron the best role he’s had since Hairspray, pushing the actor’s blandness into genuine blankness and making Teddy utterly unreadable as the pranks grow more complex.

Extra points for the amazing supporting cast, which includes such comedy MVPs as Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Hannibal Buress, Jason Mantzoukas and Lisa Kudrow. You never know where the next laugh will come from.

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