SXSW: Yes, Zac Efron Really Is The Funniest Person In Neighbors

By Sean O'Connell 2014-03-08 21:26:49discussion comments
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Do you know who is REALLY funny in Nicholas Stoller’s Neighbors? Like, "steal the show" funny?

Zac Efron.

I can hear you bitching and moaning already. Save it. Efron uses every tool in his box to keep up with (and often ahead of) a fast-and-filthy talking Seth Rogen as Neighbors works up a disgustingly funny lather. The raunchy rival comedy held a work-in-progress screening at the Paramount Theater during South By Southwest, and while the MPAA might ask for a few cuts (there are a LOT of dick jokes), the version we saw will light theaters on fire when Neighbors opens this summer.

Stoller brought Forgetting Sarah Marshall to this fest back in 2008, and called that screening "the best" of his career. This one might top it. The Paramount crowd roared as Rogen and Rose Byrne stepped into the roles of new parents Mac and Kelly Radnor, suburbanites worried that their newborn baby girl (played by a ridiculously adorable and expressive infant) will drag them kicking and screaming into adulthood. As if parenting isn’t hard enough, the Radnors must contend with their new neighbors – the men of a local college fraternity led by cocky, manipulative Teddy (Efron).

Neighbors goes beyond the easy Geeks vs. Greeks, recognizing that it has some deeply funny people at its disposal… and those actors already are finding themselves at personal crossroads that come with age. Rogen and Byrne alternate from terrified to jealous as they leer at Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and the well-endowed frat dudes. (Why Rogen and his crew are obsessed with male genitalia remains beyond me.) But neither group is detestable because Stoller makes all of these characters relatable. Old fogies like myself will want Mac and Kelly to maintain the upper hand over these punk assholes. Byrne might have earned the film’s loudest cheer when a vengeance plan she enacts over Franco and Efron falls into place. But the Greeks get their laughs, as well… as when they sneak air bags into Rogen’s seats (a visual gag that made it into the film’s trailers).

Stoller could trim the run time of Neighbors, as the back-and-forth between the warring parties goes from inspired to childish and more than a bit exhausting. But the film has multiple, huge laughs. It plays extremely well with a crowd who is plugged in to the anarchistic rivalry. But it’s also one of those relentlessly dirty comedies that you’ll watch on cable months after you belly laughed through it with your friends and wonder what, exactly, was so hysterical.
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