Growing up is hard to do. And in Neighbors, that’s as true for a young couple with a 6-month-old baby who finally buy their dream home as it is for the rowdy, raunchy, randy guys who soon buy the house right next door.
Mac and Kelly Radner have scrimped and saved just enough to buy the home they’ve always wanted. And when it looks like a gay male couple with a baby in tow is going to buy the house next door, Mac exclaims euphorically, “That’s awesome! It’s the dream. They seem so happy.”
Alas, the Radners’ own dream is about to get doused … in beer.
Among other things.
Because it’s the “men” of Delta Psi Beta who end up moving in next door.
For a brief moment, Mac and Kelly think maybe they can play it cool enough to convince the often shirtless alpha dog named Teddy Sanders and his crazy companions to keep things down to a dull roar. And so they saunter over to introduce themselves, bringing along something of a peace offering to establish good will: a tin full of fat marijuana joints.
It’s not long before Mac and Kelly are drinking, dancing and doing their best to prove that the 15 or so years that separate them from these young dudes aren’t really that big a deal. Except, of course, that Kelly keeps checking the baby monitor she carries with her to make sure little Stella is sleeping through the sloppy soiree.
Mac then tries to further prove his “coolness” by eating an entire bag of hallucinogenic mushrooms, taking off most of his clothes and passing out in his underwear (all of which is recorded on Teddy’s phone). It’s the kind of “cred” Mac thinks will give him leverage when the time eventually comes for him to tell Delta Psi to—seriously—turn it down!
After all, he’s cool. He gets it. He was young once, right? In fact he’s still young, right? He doesn’t need to let getting married and being a new dad stand in the way of having fun. Right? Right!?
Wrong. Really, really wrong.
The next night the party rages again, and now fewer than 10 phone calls from Mac to Teddy go unanswered amidst all the noise and chaos.
First come the police.
Then the escalation.
Then the explosion.
When little baby Stella almost chokes on a condom left in Mac and Kelly’s yard, well, the dutifully disturbed parents decide it’s time for the Delta Psi Beta fraternity to find a new home. Or else.
Buried amid a landfill of foul content is the pretense of a positive message: that everyone has to grow up eventually. For Mac and Kelly, that means admitting they’re not 21 anymore. It means discovering that their new life with Stella can be just as satisfying. (As if their partying days were so satisfying to begin with; a damaged detail I’ll let slide for the moment.) In a roundabout way, then, the film arguably affirms marriage and parenthood as good things to be embraced.
Going along with that idea are several moments when Teddy’s right-hand man, Pete, talks about how devastating his parents’ divorce was. So when Teddy seems to be succeeding at driving a wedge between Mac and Kelly, Pete tells his friend that what he’s doing might be taking things too far.
Teddy and Pete do grow up a bit here, by the way. As graduation approaches, Pete begins to look for a job in earnest while starting to distance himself from hard-partying Teddy—who is quietly insecure about his friend’s growing maturity. Eventually, Pete helps Teddy see that he needs to begin thinking about his future too.
A frat boy quips, “The path of the righteous is beset on all sides.”
Multiple sex scenes feature graphic movements and show bare skin while in the act (mostly male backsides). Mac often narrates, explicitly, what’s happening with his anatomy during sex. He and Kelly have sex in front of Stella and, in another scene, on the couch while most of the guys from the frat house look in through the windows.
After an epic night of drinking, Mac drops and breaks Kelly’s breast pump, whereupon he’s “forced” to (as they say in the movie) “milk” her. What follows is a graphic scene that exposes her unnaturally engorged breasts. Elsewhere, a party features several topless coeds. Women wear skimpy bikinis. Teddy’s regularly shirtless, and Mac quips to his wife that the young man looks like “a gay guy designed in a laboratory.”
There are rude lines about male genitalia, but they pale in comparison to the Deltas making dildos from casts of their own anatomies. (Much is made of losing pubic hair in the process.) A woman is shown with said anatomical parts draped around her neck.
Hazing includes naked guys walking around, bent over. We see a man’s bare backside hovering above someone’s face. A doctor jokes about the baby contracting HIV. Kelly tricks Pete into cheating with Teddy’s girlfriend, an attempt to divide the two friends who often quote the phrase “bros before hos.” Other sexual content—and this is hardly an exhaustive litany—includes mentions of masturbation, testicles, ejaculation, sperm, erections, impotence, anal sex, penis size, vaginas, engorged breasts, “boobs,” “balls,” “clits,” “nuts,” “jizz,” losing one’s virginity as a freshmen, prostitutes, genital warts, “f‑‑‑ friends,” gay kissing and lesbian kissing. There’s a conversation about the Duke lacrosse team raping a stripper.
Teddy and the guys steal the airbags from Mac’s car, placing them in strategic places that launch him to (and in one case through) the roof. A co-worker suffers a similar fate. A 55-gallon drum gets rolled into the street, where it’s hit by a car and then clocks a passerby, knocking him out. Someone jumps from a second-story railing and breaks his leg.
Several “epic” fistfights are full of hitting, kicking and body blows, not to mention people getting lobbed through doors. After Pete cheats with Teddy’s girl, the two boys have a fight in which each of them grabs the other’s crotch and begins squeezing. A large dildo gets used as a nunchuck-like weapon. Kelly launches a massive bottle rocket firework into a police officer’s open window, and it explodes in the car. Mac uses an ax to break a water pipe and flood the fraternity’s basement, shorting out electrical appliances in the process.
North of 135 f-words, some paired with “mother.” South of 60 s-words. Jesus’ name is abused about 10 times. God’s is misused 20 or so, three or four times linked with “d‑‑n.” “D‑‑k” is used a dozen times, “c‑‑k” twice. The other c-word is spit out once. A white man hurls “n‑‑ger” twice. Other profanities include “a‑‑,” “p‑‑‑,” “b‑‑ch” and “h‑‑‑”; one of the guys in the fraternity is known only as “A‑‑juice.”
You might have gathered by now that for the men of Delta Psi, life is one big party. All manner of alcohol is regularly consumed in great quantities (there’s even talk of throwing up while drunk in order to drink more), and it’s implied that smoking marijuana is just as common. One bash involves filling 55-gallon barrels with pot throughout the house, then lighting them all simultaneously.
As mentioned, Mac brings the guys a large tin of joints. We also witness him eating an entire bag of mushrooms, shoving them all in his mouth at once; he gets very high and eventually passes out. He smokes marijuana with a co-worker during a break at work (and when his boss shows up, he closes his mouth on the lit joint).
All of this is depicted as normal and harmless behavior.
Mac and Kelly leave Stella alone and sleeping in the house frequently enough to warrant an arrest for child abandonment (Kelly’s always-on baby monitor notwithstanding).
Both sides in the conflict trespass and damage property. Mac and Teddy urinate together into a fountain, joking about having a sword fight. Hazing activities leave one freshman covered in fecal matter.
In the spirit of going out of my way—way out of my way—to find something good to say about Neighbors, I can report that the film does contain a scant few positive messages about the value of marriage and the rewards of parenthood.
But I’ve already been forced to talk about that earlier. So this lone sentence is all I can bring myself to write on the subject now. Because absolutely everything in Neighbors is drenched in dreck. A baby nibbles on a condom. Men make dildos using their own anatomy as models. A man “milks” a woman onscreen.
And that’s just about all I can stomach writing about that side of things too. Add in nearly 250 obscenities and vulgarities (the majority of them f-words), and, well …
I really am stopping now.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.