All hail Zac Efron, the pec-heavy party-boy supremo who brings the LOLs to this filthy suburban frat nightmare.
There's something inherently homoerotic about fraternity houses. Think about it. The chest-bumping. The continuously renewed vows of undying affection. The unflinchingly sincere 'bros before hoes' credo. The communal penis casting sessions/home-made dildo (a dilfie?) yard sale fundraisers. Okay, that last one's new to us too. You get the picture.
The point is that the movies, and by extension, movie audiences, have long been fascinated with the minutiae of these institutionalised havens of undergrad masculinity. It's an allure that's winningly reinforced in Bad Neighbours, which sees Zac Efron (looking, as Seth Rogan's straight-laced character puts it, like something "a gay man designed on a computer programme") play perma-shirtless bad-boy-next-door Teddy Sanders, who, as president of rambunctious, phallus-preoccupied brotherhood, Delta Psi, is determined to carve his name into frat party folklore.
Standing in his way are new parents Mac (Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne), who swear to protect their wholesome neighbourhood when a removals truck-load of testosterone is dumped onto their front lawn. After a few feeble attempts to stay down with the kids in the misguided hope that Teddy and his boys will keep the keggers to a minimum, the couple decide it's time for desperate measures. But declaring war turns out to be a big mistake. You don't mess with the Efron.
Despite the apparent dichotomy between the film's gone-wild teens and quiet-life thirtysomethings, both sets of characters are at a familiar and interrelated crossroads. For Teddy, whose preposterous abs and ability to whip a crowd of horny teens into a delirious frenzy will count for nothing in the real world, there's the unwelcome reality that the time to grow up and start thinking about the future is now. Meanwhile Mac and Kelly are realising that parenthood isn't conducive to domestic bliss, and while they're quick to chastise Teddy, the truth is they're both desperate to rekindle the carefree spirit of their youth. They may have generational differences, but Teddy, Mac and Kelly are bound by the same fear of growing up and the added responsibility it brings.
Hollywood deals in crude stereotypes, and as representatives of their respective social groups, all three chief protagonists are about as clichéd as they come. Their behaviour is improbable; their actions range from irrational to down-right reckless. And it's funny. Yet for every silicone cock that's forced into a man's mouth, for every casual drug reference or tedious nod to McLovin's legendary member, there is greater truth and insight concerning the human condition here than you might reasonably expect from a foul-mouthed mainstream comedy. It may even resonate with you on a deeper level, but only if you're able to suppress the image of Zac Efron's strutting nipples long enough to allow a moment of quiet reflection.
From the director of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Heart and laughs in the right place.
Zac Efron is the real deal.