AUSTIN – Move over Animal House, Seth Rogen and Zac Efron are staking claim to the top of the frat-boy party movie class.
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They star in Neighbors, a raunchily entertaining comedy that pits Rogen as Mac, a young thirtysomething husband and father, against Teddy (Efron), the president of a hard-partying fraternity that moves in next door.
Even though the film with a May 9 release date is not completely finished, director Nicholas Stoller wanted to bring the film to the South By Southwest festival Saturday night. When he brought Forgetting Sarah Marshall to Austin in 2008 “it was the best screening I’ve ever been at,” Stoller told the audience before the film played.
Writer-executive producer Brendan O’Brien got the idea for the script when his wife called the police because some college kids who were being a nuisance next door. “That is kind of the idea of where this actually came from,” Rogen said on the red carpet before the film was screened. “If you actually had to live next to that and you were someone who was trying to have some responsibility in their life it would just be a disaster. That idea was just really funny to us.”.
At first, Mac and wife Kelly, played by Rose Byrne (The Internship) try to welcome the fraternity into the neighbor, even joining in on the festivities. But eventually the constant clamor derails their baby’s sleep schedule and have to fight back.
There are plenty of homages to Animal House. An almost unrecognizable Lisa Kudrow plays the school dean, who like Dean Wormer (John Vernon) in the 1978 film, calls in the fraternity’s leaders to put them on probation. And there’s hazing of pledges, too, but here it gets a Google Glass-style twist. “Everybody in comedy loves that movie on some level,” said co-producer James Weaver.
But these Deltas go to new lengths to save their frat house. After Mac breaks a water pipe and floods the building’s basement, the Deltas get creative in fund-raising and offer up a suggestive new use for 3-D printers.
Rogen (Pineapple Express) and Efron (That Awkward Moment) graduate to new roles in the film. As Mac, Rogen “is the adult person in this relationship,” Weaver said.
The former High School Musical star shows off his buff body and breaks new ground in other ways, too. “Let’s just say he uses a lot of four-letter words,” said Evan Goldberg, who last year formed Point Grey Pictures with Rogen and Weaver.
Efron can still create a clamor of his own; shrieks of glee were heard upon his arrival at the Paramount theater before the screening. He gushed about Austin as a festival destination.
“There is an energy, man, a vibe about the town. People here really love movies and you just feel such support,” Efron said. “And the fellow artists you meet around town, casually, it’s integrated with the people. Usually it’s so separate,. Here I really feel like we’re part of the world. It’s really neat.”.
When asked by an audience member if he was happy where his career has taken him, Efron said, “this was awesome. It couldn’t be better. When you get a call from Seth Rogen, you are in a pretty good place.”.
No release date was announced. Neighbors needs “a few trims and it’s not mixed,” Stoller told the crowd afterwards.
The almost-psychedelic party scenes will sound even better properly mixed, said Stoller who recommended viewers see the final cut. “It will be dramatically different when you pay for it,” Rogen riffed.
“And it’s in 3-D,” Stoller joked.