[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.]
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. 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. Not that you should call them jokes, though. For better and worse Neighbors is totally a product of its time. Like most comedies today, 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 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 for this 'just keep the comic ball in the air and you don't need a punchline' style of modern comedy, too. Her rich bitch hilarity in Bridesmaids was no fluke.
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 be labelled under the category 'homosexual panic' don't always land the way you expect them, too, like the dildo Efron shoves in Rogen's mouth (see the redband trailer below). My favorite subversion of what would be a totally homophobic joke just a short time ago belongs to = "Assjuice" (Craig Roberts as a new 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 male adult sites.
Not that you do that.
Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.