"Neighbors:" A Comedy With Promise

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
May 8th, 2014

It seems like almost all of mainstream comedy in the 21st century has been leading up to the release of "Neighbors." The two disparate elements that share the screen in "Neighbors" are a young couple and a wild fraternity. These two components of the seemingly simple "Neighbors" premise are both right in the wheelhouse of the Judd Apatow flavor that has permeated comedy at least since the release of 2005's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." The Apatow influence, both in terms of sensibility and cast, has transcended productions from the writer/director/producer, such as "I Love You, Man" and "This Is the End."

Apatow's name is nowhere to be found on the "Neighbors" credits, but the elements all seem to be in place: young couplehood, male immaturity, Seth Rogen and plenty of raunchiness promised by the movie's premise and its R rating from the MPAA. There are also some surprises in the cast and a few other possibly novel elements. Out of the information available, the following are some the things that audiences can likely expect from "Neighbors."

This Is Going to be a Hard R...

There is little reason to expect that the raunchiness in "Neighbors" will be toned down in the slightest. With the success of mainstream comedies like "The Hangover" films and "Hot Tub Time Machine," audiences have demonstrated not only a tolerance for racy humor, but the willingness to line up in droves and fork over hard-earned cash for envelope-pushing bawdiness. "Neighbors" will surely mine comedy from the contrast between the off-color frat house antics and the relatively staid and conservative lifestyle of a couple with a newborn baby.

...But It Will Have Heart

Not all popular comedies have a soft, sentimental streak, but most of them do. With a star-studded cast and a populist, mainstream sensibility, "Neighbors" will likely go for at least a degree of emotional relevance. However, comedy purists take heart, there will surely be plenty of gutsy hilarity to spare.

Zac Efron Playing Against Type

Zac Efron broke through as a squeaky-clean star on the Disney Channel's "High School Musical." Since then, the star has done little to counteract that image. Efron has shown considerable dramatic talent as the title character in "Charlie St. Cloud," as well as formidable comedic chops through his work hosting "Saturday Night Live" as well as his acting in "Funny or Die" videos. With a prominent role in an R-rated comedy as an antagonistic fraternity member, the star is clearly ready to show off the depths of his talents while breaking out of his usual image.

Dave Franco Breaking Out

Dave Franco has developed an impressive acting resume in productions such as "21 Jump Street" and "Charlie St. Cloud." However, audiences still have a habit of comparing Franco with his older brother James. While this is understandable, as James Franco is one of the most recognizable figures in modern movies, the much-hyped "Neighbors" is a prime opportunity for the younger Franco to break out and solidify his identity as a comedic actor separate from his brother.

Seth Rogen Expands His Repertoire

Even in movies like "Knocked Up," where his character must deal with sudden responsibility, Seth Rogen generally plays somebody who is not averse to partying. In "Neighbors," Rogen is playing somebody at odds with the young, carefree, irresponsible, hard-partying demographic. While the Canadian actor has shown that he has no small amount of range, it will be interesting to see what Rogen does with a character firmly outside of his usual repertoire.

Great Direction

The early buzz around "Neighbors" from audiences and critics has been almost unanimously positive, which is no surprise. This is the fourth feature from director Nicholas Stoller, but the director had no trouble winning over audiences with his 2008 debut "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and his strong follow-up "Get Him to the Greek." Stoller has proven himself more than capable of directing likable comedies with mass appeal.

On the surface, "Neighbors" appears to be another in a line of raunchy comedies that tend to do well at the box office. While "Neighbors" surely is a raunchy comedy, and it will very likely be successful as well, there are a few aspects of this production that set it apart from the usual stream of comedies. The promise of an usual yet potentially amazing turn from Zac Efron in an uncharacteristically edgy role is enough to set "Neighbors" apart. However, an against-type turn from Seth Rogen, as well as the always assured and agreeable direction of Nicholas Stoller, give "Neighbors" a sheen of unusual promise for comedy fans.