You can picture the script meeting: how to get everyone in the key cinemagoing demographic, from 15 right up to 40, laughing at the same movie? Could the thirtysomething concerns of Seth Rogen’s ‘Fret’ Pack oeuvre be merged with the carefree, keg-party shenanigans of the frat-com? Dare they try?
The resulting pitch must have had the execs salivating. Effectively it’s Knocked Up meets School Of Hard Knockers, no matter that the latter is actually a spoof movie as seen on The Simpsons. It’s a risky little gambit, but one pulled off with surprising frequency. No sniggering at the back.
While the frathouse scenes could use more room to breathe, and the concertina-ed timeline sometimes strains, Efron is smartly cast as the smiling Delta psy-chopath-in-waiting, while Franco wrings lots of laughs from his sidekick role. McLovin (aka Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Submarine’s Craig Roberts are in the mix, too, but get lost in the whirlwind.
At least there’s a sound reason for those strawpedo-ed (Google it!) plot points – to speed us to the next set-piece. And Stoller serves up some corkers, from throwaway visual gags (Rogen and Byrne grappling with a suggestively topiaried bush), to fiendishly involved ones (Rogen playing find-the-airbag). The sequence featuring a hungover, heavily lactating Kelly brings the house down – and might do the same to the Mumsnet server.
It’s a rare comedy that’s more remarkable when it’s chilling than when it’s going crazy, but that’s arguably the case here – although the chances are anyone in the lower half of club 15-40 might not see it that way.
A heated, hysterical battle between Apatow smarts and Animal House smirks. Subtlety takes a hazing, but humour emerges with honours.