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« Hot Docs '14: The Possibilities Are Endless | Main | Team Top Ten: The Best Cannes Winners of All Time »
Saturday
May102014

"Neighbors" Starring Seth Rogen's Hairy Back and Zac Efron's Penis

This article originally appeared in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad (Complete with a poll - so go smoke it ... vote on it!]


Zac Efron and his dildo The new frat boy comedy NEIGHBORS wastes no time with foreplay. The movie begins in the middle of a quickie between husband Mac (Seth Rogen) and wife Kelly (Rose Byrne, because all schlubby guys in movies deserve hot girls. It's, like, the rules of showbiz) who haven't had sex in too long. But soon it's coitus interruptus. Their daughter Stella, the worlds cutest baby (seriously cute - so gifable), is staring right at them spoiling the mood. 

The movie doesn't waste time with its story either, rushing right in. Mac and Kelly are first time homeowners and they think they're getting gay neighbors (yay, property values!) only to realize that a fraternity is moving in next door. Mac's response when he first sees Teddy, the alpha dog of the fraternity on the front lawn:

"That's the sexiest guy I've ever seen. It's like something a gay guy would create in a laboratory." 

Sidebar Confession: I don't really get Zac Efron. He's a decent if ungreat actor but my fellow gays are so obsessive about him that I sometimes worry they haven't noticed that the vast majority of young actors are gorgeous and in good physical shape. We can set our sights a little higher to include enormous talent in the mix, too! I'm just saying but I'm not minding. Just a few short years ago the people were obsessing over Taylor Lautner so... UPGRADE.

Bro shenanigans after the jump!

Needless to say a fraternity next door is no good for a young family just starting out and a war between the houses soon escalates. Mac and Kelly try to make nice at first with hilariously awkward 'we're still cool' chill introductions. In fact, some of the movie's best jokes are slightly heightened but relatable generational splits like Mac & Kelly's annoyance when the fratboys host a Robert De Niro party and keep getting the movie references wrong. Somehow Al Pacino's Scent of a Woman gets mixed into the deNiroisms.

Not that you should call these "jokes," though. For better and worse Neighbors is totally a product of its time. Like most comedies lately, the strength isn't in the writing or "jokes" but in the ability of actors to riff casually and improvisationally on basic situations and topics. (This is easy to spot in movies now. Both of Neighbors trailers, for instance, are filled with funny lines that aren't in the movie but are super similar to lines that are). Seth Rogen and Dave Franco are good at this which won't surprise anyone but Rose Byrne is surprisingly game too. She's skilled at this 'just keep the comic ball in the air and you don't need a punchline' style of modern comedy so that rich bitch hilarity in Bridesmaids was no fluke.

Seth Rogen & Rose Byrne check out their hunky new neighbors

The movie has a propulsive energy and welcome sense of the outrageous (though an early joke with the baby and a condom was too much for me even allowing for the movie's gleefully risque humor) and it's often quite funny. But I have to admit: I miss "jokes".

Zac Efron may not have been created in a gay laboratory but sometimes it feels like the movie was. The movie has an endless supply of dick jokes, plentiful opportunities to gawk at Franco and Efron's bodies unclothed and an entire subplot about dildos molded from each, uh, member of the members of the frathouse. But even the jokes that might technically fall under the umbrella category of 'homosexual panic' don't always land the way you expect them, too, like the dildo fight between Efron and Rogen. My favorite subversion of what would be a totally homophobic joke just a short time ago belongs to  "Assjuice" (Craig Roberts from Submarine as a frequently abused pledge) and his deadpan one-liner about an implied blowjob. Turns out it's more fun to be pandered to than laughed at so this new turn Hollywood's been talking with gayish humor is also an upgrade. 

It's fitting, then, that Abercrombie & Fitch gets the movies last and biggest product placement gag. Remember that annoying gurrl-puhleeze business they used to pull on their beefcake calendars with the subtitle "for women" (the 90s equivalent of shouting "No homo!"?).Neighbors is descended from that same tradition. It's the R rated Hollywood equivalent of hitting the "straight guys" tab on your gay porn sites.

Not that you do that. 

 

Grade: B
Oscar Chances?: Quick. Name the last frat comedy with an Oscar nomination.

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Reader Comments (29)

Zac is a hottie and I think he has potential acting-wise (me & Orson wells; the paperboy). Then
again, you speak the truth - there are a bunch of young hottie up & comers
with oodles of talent along with their six-packs...

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMe

My introduction to Efron was in the "wow" moment of his leaning against the lockers and winking at Tracy Turnblad during the trailer from Hairspray. I thought: "They went back in time and kidnapped a matinee teen idol!!" So it was perfect. His performance in the movie was a bit more uneven (Marsden and Elijah Kelley were the two true seamless standouts for me). But 17 Again turned me into an Efron apologist, if not a devotee. He commits fully to the comedy and has easy charisma for miles, plus truly and remarkably selling his emotional scenes (like Emma Stone in Easy A, he showed up for that movie in a way most people in the cast did not, and most audience members didn't expect). That movie made me want to see more more more, especially in comedy and dancing, which made his turn to beefcake self-seriousness a bit disappointing. But I'm optimistic about Neighbors and can't help but "what if?" him as a prince in Into the Woods.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

I don't want to overstate things - Efron is not the second coming or anything, but I'm with catbasket - he gave a very assured, charming, funny performance in 17 Again, and it won me over. Looking forward to seeing him in Neighbors.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

What is the meaning of the 'go smoke it' reference?

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMe

Katherine Heigl, Michelle Williams, Rose Byrne... Why won't they match Seth Rogen with an actress plain enough to be believable as his wife? Or, if the women are held to a triple standard (funny, talented AND hot), why not get rid of that dirty schlub and cast a good looking comedian too (someone along the lines of Anthony Jeselnik, for example) or a handsome actor who handles comedy well, like Chris Pratt or Geoff Stults?

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

It's the Rob Lowe / Ian Somerhalder trajectory... Chesnut hair, blue eyes, symmetrical bone structure and a willingness to play vapid pretty-boy without a lot of fuss.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Why are you writing off Efron at the exact moment when it seems he's becoming a good actor? You really don't make a lot of sense sometimes.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertony

I can't believe the guy with a Z has a career. I see hotter guys at my gym every single day.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Roark and cat baskets -- maybe 17 Again is what I'm missing because as stated I don't really get the appeal beyond pretty.

Tony - I didn't think I was 'writing him off ' by admitting I don't really see the appeal. But I guess we split on the becoming a good actor thing. I have yet to see a performance by him that's better than adequate. I don't dislike him or anything but as with pretty actresses who bring nothing special (for me he's the male Jessica Biel) I just react like 'why are u taking up so much space in showbiz? .

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

The one great thing, which they do wink at in the movie, is that Kelly is not the buzzkill wife that you always see in these roles. She's just as immature and game to go after the frat as her husband.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Am I the only person who loved The Paperboy? A magnificent campfest. Zac and McConaghey gave great performances with the added advantage of showing Zac always in his tighty whities and Mac's luscious bubble butt. Zac and Mac naked, truly a gay director's (Lee Daniels) dream come true.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJared

Bia - great point which I undersold in the review, I shouldn't have reduced her to 'the wife' in my description

Jared -lots of the fans of the Paperboy here. I was one of the only critics who gave it a good review ;)

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

I have no strong feelings for Efron one way or another, but most of the goodwill I have for him is due to his first ever role as Young Simon Tam on Firefly AND THEN getting his big break in a musical.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Paperboy anecdote. Lee Daniels gave an interview and said he cast Zac because he, Daniels, is a gay man and Zac is gorgeous. He said Mac had been made up for the S&M trussed like a chicken scene, was wearing a robe after make up and took the robe off to show Daniels what the make up looked like. Daniels said he told Mac to please put the robe back on, because he was physical perfection and Daniels couldn't concentrate.

Daniels said his mother is a big fan of McConahey and after the film, she told him "what have you done to my Matthew?"

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJared

Katherine Heigl, Michelle Williams, Rose Byrne... Why won't they match Seth Rogen with an actress plain enough to be believable as his wife? Or, if the women are held to a triple standard (funny, talented AND hot), why not get rid of that dirty schlub and cast a good looking comedian too (someone along the lines of Anthony Jeselnik, for example) or a handsome actor who handles comedy well, like Chris Pratt or Geoff Stults?

In my boring non-celebrity, non-big city life, I see the hot woman/plain guy combo not all the time, but enough for it not to be too irksome onscreen, especially when the guy has a sense of humor, some level of charm and is merely average looking. Seeing the reverse (hot guy/plain girl) is much, much rarer. Also Seth Rogen is a box-office draw and Geoff Stutts, not so much. Rose Byrne is 2-3 years older than Seth Rogen, at least. Being in Hollywood has to skew the perspective as well for men in the industry, since IRL they have gorgeous women after them all the time regardless of how attractive they are, so it is true to life to them.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

Living in California, I'm pretty sure the industry people have also seen their fair share of powerful, successful women in their 40s and 50s, in positions of leadership, and yet somehow none of this "true to life" depictions seem to make their way into the movie screens. Funny isn't it, Claire? Also, regardless of his power in the box office might be now, which is debatable (see The Guilt Trip and Green Hornet), Seth Rogen was not a draw of any sort when he was cast opposite Heigl in Knocked Up, her being 1000x more attractive than he is. Stop appeasing for the industry's sexism by trying to rationalize it. The standards should be equal for both genders, simple as that.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

The standards should be equal for ALL genders, I should correct myself.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

Mark your calendar for October 18th and watch 17 Again, on what will be the 10 year anniversary of Zac Efron's 17th Birthday ;) (Don't worry, I had to look that up)

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

The standards should be equal for ALL genders, I should correct myself.

You were correct the first time.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I'm gonna give a Zac's performance in 17 Again a shout-out as well...did not expect that one when I caught it one day on cable! He is waaaay better than the movie as a whole and he truly deserved a GG nom in the comedy category.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMB76

Did anyone else feel that the movie really regressed when it focused on the fraternity brothers only? I didn't mind the scenes between Rogen/Byrne/the frat, but anytime it was just Efron and Franco on screen, I thought the movie lost a bit of momentum. (Maybe because that's where the bro jokes really came out and that's not my cuppa?)

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I see combos like that all the time. Ordinary guy and cute chick. Besides Rosé Byrne is cute, but it's not like she's some Victoria secrets model. Same with Michelle Williams and Heigl.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

I don't think Efron is untalented, but he's far from being a dynamic performer. For all the slack Channing Tatum got and STILL gets (and he deserved it for a while), it's remarkable how much people will defend Efron's blandness.

I do think he's growing, though. There was an earnestness to his early acting that bothered me but it seems to be going away. I have to give him credit for being able to play on his public image and for being self-effacing enough to take roles that rely on his prettiness to an extent, instead of going for something that might try and obscure it.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

I see combos like that all the time. Ordinary guy and cute chick. Besides Rosé Byrne is cute, but it's not like she's some Victoria secrets model. Same with Michelle Williams and Heigl.

And I'm not holding my breath for the female equivalents of Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston in the looks department to emerge develop widespread cultish fandoms as sex symbols anytime soon. Someone like Tilda Swinton has fans, but not in the same way. That's really not on Hollywood suits. I watched American Idol for years and you wouldn't believe how many perfectly ordinary-looking to unattractive guys suddenly became "cute" and sexy to wide swaths of fans because they had good voices or played the guitar or said something funny or seemed like nice, well-mannered boys.

A lot of these gross-out comedies appeal heavily to teen boys and men, who are probably not male models themselves, and more easily embrace Seth Rogen/Jonah Hill/Sandler types in this sort of starring role. Different sorts of actors get cast as the star in action thrillers or spy dramas, where it's more about the "male audience" wishing they were as cool and smart and attractive as That Guy. People always seem surprised whenever a classically handsome guy is really adept at comedy (and not just being the guy in a rom-com) and he gets pushed into being the leading man even when it doesn't suit his skills.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

Also just wanted to rebut the Michelle Williams/Seth Rogen pairing. The unevenness of that marriage is part of what makes the movie work. If you were married to Seth Rogen, of course you'd be lusting when Luke Kirby started to pay attention to you.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

The paperboy is awesome. Destined to be a cult classic. I was at the first test screening and lets say the audience didn't know how to react to it. But Lee Daniels is the man

May 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Rose Byrne and Seth Rogan as a married couple are as believable as Grace Kelly and Ernest Borgnine. And it's not just about the imbalance in attractiveness. Someone like Seth Rogan can't rely on his charm, wit or intelligence to balance that pendulum.

May 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I rarely laughed in any of this. Meh. Rose Byrne is the real deal though.

May 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaulie

Zac Efron’s penis got a lot of attention – but most guys need to pay more attention to the HEALTH of their organs. It’s vital that men regularly apply a first rate penis health cream (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) to maintain their tools’ health.

August 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDr. George

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