The "hard R" comedy is a rare beast. Studios went through a phase where ribald comedies were watered down so executives could chase the more lucrative PG-13 audience. In the process, they neutered once edgy comedians like Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams, to name two. The Hangover helped change things, however, illustrating to studio heads that mature audiences would show up to support foul-mouthed comedies so long as they were funny. And Neighbors -- Hollywood’s latest proud-to-be-rated-R comedy – is damn funny.
Dave Franco helps ensure that Neighbors earns big laughs. The younger sibling of Oscar-nominated actor-director James Franco, Dave has been carving out his own niche in movies like 21 Jump Street (and its sequel), Warm Bodies and Now You See Me. In Neighbors, he plays Pete, partner-in-crime to head fraternity boss Teddy (Zac Efron), and the perpetual thorn in the sides of suburban parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne).
Neighbors is a scripted comedy. Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien receive screenwriting credit, though Franco’s candid when he tells me that a lot of their lines are improvised in the moment.
"We’re trying 100 jokes for each scene," Franco told me during a recent interview on behalf of Neighbors, which opens in theaters on Friday. "I don’t remember half of the stuff that we did, to be honest. It’s always interesting, when there is a film that has so much exploration while you’re filming, to see the finished cut and to see which joke they finally landed on. … And with a movie like this, you’re almost disappointed by which joke they go with because you know how many jokes you attempted to do. Obviously, you can’t put all of the jokes in there. You have to choose one!"
Was there a joke he remembers trying that he really wishes they kept in?
"There is," he tells me. "There’s a joke where – I’m still not sure if I ever said it out loud or if I was just thinking it. But during the montage where we’re getting back at Seth and Rose, and we cut their bush into the shape of a guy bending over, I wanted to say the line, ‘I’m sorry. I went down on a hippie chick last night, and was inspired to trim bush.’ I wish that was in there."
Needless to say, it didn’t make the cut.
Dave Franco didn’t stop there. Click on to find out the one Neighbors joke he really wishes wasn’t included in the film’s marketing campaign.
I asked Dave Franco about the Neighbors trailers, which give away a lot of the film’s jokes (without revealing the best of the bunch).
"What’s in there?" he asks. "They show the air-bag bit?"
He’s referring to Seth Rogen being blasted out of his office chair and into the ceiling by air bags the frat kids stole from Rose Byrne’s car. Franco adds, "I’ve seen the film now twice, and by this point, you would assume that most of the people had seen the trailers and commercials. But the air-bag scene still plays bigger than probably 90% of the jokes in the whole movie. There’s a weird thing I read one time where people, in general, laugh harder still at the jokes that are in the trailer! Maybe they know that it’s a moment they are supposed to laugh at. I don’t know the psychology behind that."
Part of the air-bag gag can be seen in this TV spot:
I asked Franco which Neighbors joke he wishes they left out of the marketing campaign, and he referenced the impeccable Robert De Niro impersonation he pulls off for the frat’s De Niro party. As you can see in the above photo, Franco mimics De Niro from his Meet the Parents days, talking about Seth Rogen violating "the circle of trust" and upsetting the cat, Mr. Jinx.
"Everyone knew that scene was going to pop, just because it was so outlandish," Dave Franco said. "The outfits turned out so well, and everyone was doing different degrees of a De Niro impression, and that worked well off of each other. It’s one of those things where you see two seconds of that scene, and you don’t care what the context is, you’re in, and you know that it’s going to be a good time."
Audience can begin having a good time with Neighbors when it opens in theaters on May 9.