In a milieu where hunky guys do superhero movies and Oscars are given to pretty women who break free of their typecast, Zac Efron is content to simply be hot.
In Neighbors, the new comedy from Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement, Get Him To the Greek), we see a glimpse of something more from Efron — an actor still riding his sex appeal while flexing some acting chops. His role in this comedy is mostly to be cute — an unapologetic male sex icon of our times — but his performance hints at more challenging and layered roles in the years ahead.
His Neighbors character is a frat bro, complete with abs and bad manners. But then something changes in the film’s third act. The light changes. He’s sitting in a wheelchair, brandishing a baseball bat, plotting his next attempt to get back at Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), the new couple that moved into the house next door. He looks dangerous, a kid on the verge of adulthood who may really get into trouble. It’s a darker moment, a few seconds when the film switches out of comedy to give Efron’s villain a twinge of depth.
Besides that, the film is the standard fare you expect in a Seth Rogen comedy. Pranks get pulled. Poop jokes and pot jokes. Boobs and dicks. Neighbors unfolds like we expect. We cling along for the punchlines between Rogen and Byrne (and for their believable onscreen chemistry) and to see Zac Efron from every angle — a tanned and shirtless adonis we’ll never stop wanting.
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