I'm still laughing at jokes from last night's SXSW premiere of Nicholas Stoller's Neighbors, a movie so goddamn hilarious that I couldn't catch my breath at times for the laughter. I already need to see it again because I missed so many lines that were obscured by the uproar rising from the audience. It's a movie that just made me happy, the kind of comedy that I already know I'm going to own and watch over and over.
Already on that list is Stoller's debut film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Neighbors reminds me of that movie's widespread appeal. What I love about Forgetting Sarah Marshall is that it's a romantic comedy that guys really like, too, and Neighbors is a gross-out bro film that women will also love. A huge part of that is Rose Byrne's incredible performance - she is absolutely the MVP of Neighbors. She is honestly amazing in the movie. I've always thought Byrne was great, but now I'm moderately obsessed with her. And so much of Neighbors' success is due to screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, who have delivered a script layered in equal parts with hilarity and humanity.
Byrne and Seth Rogen play Mac and Kelly, young, irresponsible (read: fun) parents who have the cutest baby alive. Seriously, this infant is one hell of a charmer. They've sunk all of their funds into their first home on a quiet street, when a fraternity led by Zac Efron moves in next door. At first Mac and Kelly try to make nice with Efron's Teddy, and he welcomes them into the first frat blow-out with warmth, but after a few nights of unbearable noise, they call the cops on the fraternity. What follows is an increasingly dramatic war between fraternity and family, with the stakes growing reasonably high without ever feeling terribly unrealistic.
Neighbors manages to accomplish something I would have thought impossible: it makes me sympathize with a frat guy. Hell, it makes me like a frat guy. 100% of that is due to Zac Efron's undeniable charm - and his unbelievable handsomeness. He's so hot in this film that I think it must actually be stated in any review written about Neighbors, as he spends most of the film shirtless, betraying a body that is beyond reason. As Richard Linklater once said in a Q&A for Orson Welles and Me: "The fucking camera loves this kid."
But Teddy is also pretty sweet and sort of adorably dumb. He responds with true kindness to Mac and Kelly's welcoming gestures, and he really seems to enjoy spending time with them. He asks them to promise they'll call him before they call the cops if any of the frat parties get too loud, and they swear they will. When they later call the cops (to be fair, after several attempts to call him first), he seems a little heartbroken, before he grows sinister.
Neighbors works best because of this dynamic, in which we actually care about all of the characters. Rogen and Efron make an incredible comedic duo, and I'd love to see them paired up again in the future. The supporting cast (including Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Carla Gallo, Ike Barinholtz and a greater-than-ever Lisa Kudrow) are all terrific, too. But I can't go on enough about Byrne's performance. She is the riotous, dorky, unhinged badass, and she nails some truly heinous scenes with gusto. Mac and Kelly's marriage feels like a promise to young married couples who are considering children everywhere: you can still be irresponsible and weird and hilarious and fun. You can still party and prank and have stupid drunk sex. You can still be you.
I can't wait for everyone to see Neighbors - it comes out May 9th, and I expect it to be a huge hit. It's a disgusting, rowdy comedy with an amazing amount of heart, and if it can make me feel bad for a fraternity, it can truly do anything.