This article originally appeared in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad (Complete with a poll - so go smoke it ... vote on it!]
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.
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.
Oscar Chances?: Quick. Name the last frat comedy with an Oscar nomination.