Wholesomeness does not last forever, especially the kind seemingly cooked up in a Disney or Nickelodeon lab somewhere. Plenty of child stars – squeaky clean in their tween years – have fallen from grace in some way or another. Naked pictures! Rehab! Drugs! (Maybe that last one before rehab! Maybe also after, though!) Indie movies! It’s a rough world out there, and it’s hard to stay on the straight and narrow (or the at least overly family-friendly) path for too long.
Such is the case with young Zac Efron. The three-time star of the Disney Channel’s hugely popular High School Musical series (a gem of modern kiddie fare, and don’t you ever forget it) has had some, well, troubles. There’s been some drugs. Some rehab. Some getting peed on by Nicole Kidman on screen. There’s been some oat-sowing, okay? But although Efron has made some missteps and mistakes in both his personal and professional lives, but it looks like he might have finally found a way to marry his panache for the bad boy stuff with something that might actually make some damn money.
It’s called Neighbors, and you’re not going to be able escape it this time next month.
Granted, you’ve probably already heard about Neighbors – it is, after all, a big budget studio comedy that comes to us from Nicholas Stoller (The Five Year Engagement) and Seth Rogen (everything), and it already had a splashy screening at this year’s SXSW. (If you need more on that, our own Eric D. Snider reviewed the film’s work in progress print at the festival.) But what seems to be most off-beat about the film is that Efron, the dreamy lead of a Disney franchise, is playing a real asshole.
Sure, Seth Rogen may scream about the darkness inside of him in the film, but it’s Efron who looks to really be playing against type here. Go ahead and see: gird your loins, and check out the latest Neighbors red band trailer below.
Yes, that is a pair of large dildos, one of which Efron’s Teddy crams into Rogen’s Mac’s mouth. What a dick! (Sorry.)
Efron is an obvious choice for the “pretty boy” role in most any film – he’s pretty, okay? – but setting him up as the obvious baddie in an uproarious comedy is pretty inspired. Efron has never played a straight villain before, the most he’s really dabbled in the dark stuff has been some light line-crossing. His part in At Any Price was more about a dumb kid trying to make his dreams come true, he was a womanizer with a heart of gold in That Awkward Moment, and even in the The Paperboy he was just a well-meaning pawn. Efron has never gone dark, even as his public profile has matured beyond the kiddie stuff that put him on the map.
No, there’s no reason for Efron to go full bad guy – can you imagine him holding a gun? – but the sort of jerky work seemingly afforded to him in Neighbors is one hell of a stepping stone. Better yet, it also looks like Efron is actually good at being a nemesis, even one played for laughs.
Also, his name is Teddy, and that’s just terrifying.
Neighbors opens on May 9th. It looks glorious.