Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
May 05th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Frat Packed

film fratHow can ‘Neighbors’ be Seth Rogan’s best movie?

Strange how Neighbors is Seth Rogan’s most all-killer, no-filler film. It’s so muscular it seems like a breakthrough. The bear-like icon of the Apatow-era comedy is funny—when he’s on a roll and grousing he reminds you of Albert Brooks at his best. But Rogan works in films that always seem spun out of improv and then cut back to size—it’s a form of comedy that is to comedy what slash and burn is to agriculture; it depletes the audience and the performer alike.  Neighbors is directed by Nicholas Stoller of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which exemplified the first swollen, then carved-down style.

Neighbors is by contrast, brutally cut, with reality TV show editing—deliberately idiotic novelty wipes, such as a star wipe and a clock wipe, propel the story. But the cutting doesn’t go against the grain. This comedy has a careening style, with day-glo debauchery out of Gaspar Noe and Harmony Korine (if influence is a demonstration of greatness, maybe Spring Breakers was that big a deal).

The plot is as simple as a classic Warner Brothers cartoon or a 1920s two-reeler: Mac (Rogan) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), a couple with a six-month-old baby, are living happily in their suburban house when they suddenly get Delta Psi’s frat house as a neighbor.

The twist is that the couple is all for it—life as shut-in parents was getting on their nerves. (“Why don’t you leave it at the fire station?” suggests a pal who invites them to a concert without their baby.) Zac Efron, demonstrating alarming American Psycho inflections, is the frat president, Teddy—he has his own concerns about the mark he will leave on fraternity history. Efron gets to show off his physical perfection and action-figure six-pack. The couple and the frat party together till sun up and brotherly love and handshakes are exchanged … until that night’s wall-shaking party; the Delta Psis refuse to answer the phone, the cops get called, the gloves are off. The dubious battle begins and the baby gets sidelined, for genuinely sweet reaction shots—these include a leer recalling the brat in Von Trier’s Antichrist as it scopes its parents in mid-primal scene. You do have to appreciate the first movie in 10 years with a baby in it that doesn’t have a diaper joke.

Rose Byrne is Neighbors’ biggest surprise. Byrne is in her 30s now, terribly beautiful, woefully beautiful, lean and dark and with sad, Celtic eyebrows. For years directors worked that sense of tragedy, even in Hollywoodized classical tragedy: she played captive Briseis in Troy. Someone realized that all the best comedians have tragic faces and Byrne finally started doing work I felt like talking about, as in Bridesmaids and I Give It A Year. There’s no sense of a movie star bravely slumming through a dick-joke-laden comedy:  she’s avid for this, and lights up with the eagerness to fight the frat-rats. Kelly is the first one in the attack when a pediatrician does something comically horrible to shame this shame-free couple. 

Stoller puts the comedy where a general would, in the front, instead of making this another family feud, a boring sitcom paradigm of the put-upon man and his naggy wife.  Kelly is full of vicious mischief, engineering a smooth plan to destroy the frat from within by putting “hos before bros.” Animal House is considered a classic for a dozen or so routines, but there’s more vigor and force here—Neighbors may be the ultimate frat-house comedy.


NEIGHBORS With Seth Rogan, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Dave Franco. Written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien. Directed by Nicholas Stoller. Rated R. 96 minutes.

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Mountain Mystic

When Cora Evans died in Boulder Creek in 1957, her thousands of pages of religious writings hadn’t yet been published. More than a half a century later, Evans’ fiery visions and spiritual devotion have inspired a crusade within Catholicism to make her the Santa Cruz Mountains’ first saint

 

Wesak (Water) Taurus Solar Festival, Buddha Blesses the Earth

A most important celebration occurs Sunday, May 3—the Wesak Taurus Buddha Solar Festival/full moon. At the moment of the full moon the Buddha’s presence enters the Earth plane for eight minutes. He brings the Will-to-Good from the Father, which, when reaching humanity becomes goodwill (Mother Principle). Held yearly in a valley hidden deep within the Himalayas, the Wesak festival is prepared for for months in advance (beginning at Winter Solstice). On festival day, amidst pilgrims, disciples and Holy Ones gathered in the valley, the Buddha is invoked through movement, symbols and mantrams. At the moment of the full moon, hearing the words, “We are ready, Buddha, come,” the Lord of Illumination (brother of the Christ) appears in the clouds above the altar to emanate forth the will and purpose of God to earth. The blessing of the father is then held in safekeeping for distribution at the June full moon Goodwill Festival. The day of Wesak (May 3, 8:42 p.m. West Coast) all disciples (east and west) place crystal vessels filled with pure water outside (in gardens, on rooftops, porches and steps) under the heavens. As the Buddha blesses the world, all waters, including waters within our bodies, are blessed. The Buddha is accompanied by the Forces of Enlightenment to illuminate humanity’s minds. Humanity then begins to express new constructive, productive and beneficial ways of the Art of Livingness. Wesak covers five days—two days (before) of dedicated preparation, the actual festival “Day of Safeguarding,” and two days (after) distributing goodwill (the NGWS to humanity). Join us in the Valley by reciting the Great Invocation, mantra of direction for humanity.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of May 1

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Hole in the Wall

Popular Aptos spot opens for dinner

 

How do you connect with the natural world?

My connection to the natural world is through my art. I totally feel it there very physically in nature and even right here on the street. Jonathan Rosen, Felton, Pastor

 

Hess Collection Winery

My friend Emma from London came to visit for a few days in early March, so I took her wine tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains—a rare treat for her, as there aren’t too many vineyards in the middle of London. Her visit reminded me how fortunate we are to live in this paradise of ultra-fresh produce, with grapes growing in wild profusion.

 

Springtime Walkabout

May Day Flower Festival, free tours of the UCSC Farm, and a nondairy chocolate indulgence