Neighbors

Seth Rogen, dammit, is growing on me. (Sans that atrocious laugh, of course. If I ever meet him, I plan to say nothing witty or humorous. I’d be fine with him thinking I’m boring.) Zac Efron is growing on me, too, though I probably need to argue slightly less about that one. Google-image-search him.

Neighbors is a pleasant surprise, and one that admittedly has all the elements of a movie I’d probably find mediocre–frat partying, Seth Rogen, lots of yelling. Rose Byrne certainly helps; she plays Rogen’s wife, and they let her do the opposite of what she did in Bridesmaids — keep her beautiful Australian accent and get irresponsible. For whatever reason, though, Rogen really makes this movie for me. I could never get into his previous movies, mostly because I hated how he perpetuated his own man-child stereotype on the big screen, and then would be hilarious and smart and charming in interviews. It’s like he was downplaying his own intelligence. In this one, however, and in The Trip before it (and probably 50/50 too, though I never saw it), he grows up a little. He’s a dad here. A cool dad with a hot wife, but a dad nonetheless. The temptation to party with the frat boys is superseded, for the most part, by the desire to protect his family and get a good night’s sleep. Boiled down, that’s kind of sweet.

The battle between the young family of three (Rogen, Byrne, and a really, REALLY cute baby) and the frat (Efron, Dave Franco, Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, etc) gets wild and zany, but the physical comedy is creative and unexpected. The airbag gags that you see in the trailers are actually still hilarious in the movie, because of how incredibly violent they are. The party montages aren’t too porny or self-indulgent. The tricks they play aren’t animal-housey; they’re brutal and mean. And yet you root for both sides of the neighbor war. You want the little family to live peacefully, but you also want the frat bros to have a fun time in college. They’re all stupid boys, but they’re not particularly evil or anything. I particularly loved the younger Franco’s character, and the younger Franco in general. He’s a baby-faced, kinder alternative to his bizarre, over-exposed older bro. And if you haven’t heard of comedian Jerrod Carmichael, look up his stuff. He’s real funny.

My favorite scenes in this movie were the subtlest ones, though. There’s an interplay between Mac (Rogen) and Teddy (Efron) in which they figure out just how generationally different they are — and this is where I figured out I was closer in age to Mac than Teddy, and freaked out internally — by deciding who “their” Batman is. Neither actor has a particularly solid Batman impression — Rogen channelled Michael Keaton while Efron did his best to mimic Christian Bale — but this is a conversation dudes would have to figure each other out. They’d consider their impressions flawless, and they’d consider the other guy completely wrong in his assessment. It also helps that Rogen and Efron have really great chemistry together. As Efron gets older, I hope he’ll do more comedy, because I think he has the potential to be what Ryan Reynolds maybe hasn’t quite gotten to yet. Both of those modelesque men have incredibly great comedic timing, but for whatever reason, Reynolds isn’t a massive superstar. Channing Tatum is in this boat with Efron, too — they’re threatening on so many levels, talent-wise. I hope everyone appreciates them for more than their good looks. Another favorite scene was actually just a moment. Teddy lit a joint with a blow-torch, and it took up maybe half a second of screen time, but Efron did it with such deftness that it completely slayed me. It’s that kind of speed that’ll take him far, and earn him credit with other comedic performers.

Maybe the best scene in the movie, though, is at the end. I’m not going to get into too much detail about it, but suffice it to say that both stars of the movie are shirtless, and it is hysterical. I realized, watching this scene, that Rogen rarely makes that joke about himself, which I really respect. In Hollywood, we’ve come to expect the “lug” guy to be the comic relief precisely because of his lugginess, but Rogen has never, ever made that the punchline. He relies on his stoner attitude or his laser-sharp pop culture references, which bring his characters far more depth than a joke about his weight ever would. (I just never really got into the stoner aspect of his characters, is all.) And good on him, because he’s a great-looking guy. Props to him for standing next to a shirtless Zac Efron and not withering in defeat.

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