Friday, May 9, 2014

Hate Thy 'Neighbors'?

Opening a movie with Seth Rogen in a sex scene is a ballsy move.  It was the most jarring introductory humping image since Philip Seymour Hoffman was banging away in the beginning of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.  Now, Neighbors, a raucous frat comedy, is not a Sidney Lumet crime drama, but it knows that it's doing.  

Rogen and Rose Byrne play Mac and Kelly Radner, a young couple who are still maneuvering parenthood.  They seem to be following the rules of life: get married, buy a house, and have a family--a traditional path that they are both anxious and wary to follow.  When the house next door goes up for sale, they keep their fingers crossed that the interracial, gay couple will liven their street.  They are more than concerned when the chiseled, rowdy boys of Delta Psi move in next door. 

Things start off cordially.  Mac and Kelly meet Teddy and Pete (Zac Efron and Dave Franco), the president and vice president of the fraternity.  They ask the college boys to make sure to keep it down, because they have a newborn daughter, and they seal the deal with some joints.  They party with their new neighbors--something they haven't done in years, and, quite frankly, can't handle--so they think everything is fine and dandy.  Maybe Mac and Kelly could handle partying like college kids every once and a while, but the boys of Delta Psi pretty much party every night.  Soon enough, the Radner's are at all out war with the hotties next door.  It seems that Mac and Kelly try everything: they call the cops, damage the house, and even try talking to the dean.

Neighbors sets itself up to just be a breezy, good time, but in the process it surprises us a bit.  Byrne isn't just a pretty wife to a schlubby husband.  She is just as committed to taking down the boys next door as Mac.  A thank you is in order to screenwriter Nicholas Stollar for not making Kelly hook up with one of the rowdy frat guys.  The friendship between Efron and Franco is quite bro-tastic, and its homoerotic undertones (it's there, don't deny it) will please some of the other interested audience members.  Teddy and Pete are two very different frat brothers, but when Efron and Franco go off on "brah" tangents, it's really funny.  

I'm very curious as to what Zac Efron is doing with his career.  After graduating from Disney Channel purgatory, he's worked with some risky directors (Lee Daniels), but he hasn't broken out as the major star someone predicted he'd be.  He's perfectly cast as Teddy, an immature, vengeful, perpetually shirtless frat boy.  Who is in charge of putting Efron in those pants, by the way?  Thank you costumer Leesa Evans.  You know what you did, and I've never been more jealous of someone in charge of dressing an actor in my life.  

Neighbors knows what it is and relishes it.  You want bawdy humor with hot shirtless guys?  Go ahead.  Pick up a Red Solo Cup.  

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