SXSW got off to a roaring start yesterday afternoon (well, start for me; the festival proper kicked off Friday) for a couple reasons. First was the rain, which wasn’t quite “roaring” but was plenty cold and wet enough to be despised by all in line. Second was Neighbors, a comedy of young couple meets frat house starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron. There are definitely traces of Judd Apatow influence, which makes sense given that the writer, director, and at least a plurality of the producers have been involved projects from the Apatow circle of friends, but Neighbors is probably the freshest, funniest R-comedy to appear since the first Hangover. The packed Paramount theater where the film was screened, not a small venue, was roaring through basically the whole debut.
And this was technically just a public debut, not a premier, because the version we were shown was called a “work in progress,” but some color and sound balance aside, this looks pretty much done. Some of the cast and production team did a short Q&A after the screening, and they said there are still a couple minor cuts to be made, but my guess is this is as much about cleaning up transitions as it is cutting material.
A full review is incoming in the near future, but for now suffice it to say that Efron and Rogen seem perfectly cast. That douche Efron was playing in That Awkward Moment? This is his funnier, dumber (literally, but also in a good way), crazier college doppelganger, and he actually fits the narrative this time around. Rogen is also treading somewhat familiar territory here as the adult who still wants to party every now and then, but he does it really well. Rose Byrne is a great addition as Rogen’s wife, as is Ike Bairnholtz as Rogen’s friend and coworker who absolutely steals a few of the scenes he’s in. Also a shout out to the baby as one of the cutest, most emotive film babies I can ever remember.
This movie strikes exactly the ridiculous tone you’d expect from a film with the premise of a war between a frat house and their slightly more…well, no not any more responsible neighbors, but that’s a really good thing. The production leans into the just-beyond-believable ridiculousness of it all, and – I can’t believe I’m saying this – should be commended for keeping its requisite character development and associated somber moments to a minimum and mostly out of the way. Guys, this was a really fun film.
Fun fact: of all the principle cast, none of them went to college, and of the main production team, only one was actually in a frat.