MONEY selling a home

5 Ways to Deal With the Eyesore Next Door

Stephan Zabel—Getty Images

Don’t let the neighborhood eyesore put your home sale at risk — take action with these 5 tips.

You’re almost ready to put your house on the market when you realize it: The neighborhood eyesore is going to pose a problem.

Sure, we know some people might view any attempts to hide an eyesore from view as being underhanded, sneaky, and designed to fool unsuspecting buyers. They might envision unscrupulous sellers and agents who keep their fingers crossed, just hoping no one spots the eyesore next door.

If you feel that way, by all means, point out the junkyard behind you that’s worthy of American Pickers, the yard next door that looks more like a prairie than a lawn, or the bail bonds sign spray-painted on the wall across the street.

For the rest of us, here are five ways to resolve these eyesore neighbor homes so that would-be buyers won’t be scared off. And who knows? Maybe if you tackle these unsavory sights, you’ll decide not to sell your home after all.

1. Ask your neighbor to fix the problem

This solution can be tricky. There’s really no easy way to tell someone that his or her house is the neighborhood eyesore. But there are some methods that might help.

“Just writing a friendly note (dropped off with a bottle of wine or another small gift) can sometimes do the trick,” says Ross Anthony, a San Diego real estate agent.

It also can’t hurt to mention to your neighbor that the more your home sells for, the more his or her home will be worth.

2. Be neighborly

You know how people can become desensitized to certain smells? (“How did you know I had a cat?”) Well, people can become so accustomed to the condition of their house that they don’t notice when it looks run-down.

This sometimes happens with elderly homeowners: either they haven’t realized the condition of their home or they simply can’t manage the upkeep. You might think a condo or townhouse situation might better suit your overwhelmed neighbor, but steer clear of that suggestion.

Instead, offer to spruce up the house yourself. “If it is an elderly person, I offer to help,” says Sarah Bentley Pearson, an Atlanta real estate agent.

But it’s not just elderly neighbors with houses that could benefit from a little TLC — just think of all the work you did to get your house in selling shape!

Alexander Ruggie of 911 Restoration in Los Angeles says that if the next-door neighbor has a poor paint job, a wobbly fence, or a caved-in garage, there’s no reason you can’t offer to help fix the problem. “Most people would be surprised how much they can convince people to do when they offer to help do it.”

3. Notify your HOA

If you live in a community with a homeowners’ association (HOA), let it know about the unkempt house near you. One of the main reasons HOAs exist is to prevent homes in the neighborhood from becoming eyesores that could drive down the value of your home.

Your HOA might send a letter to the offending neighbor warning him or her to fix the problem or face fines. Or the HOA might take care of the problem and then bill the homeowner.

4. Call the city

If your neighbor won’t mow his or her lawn, get rid of the junk outside, or let you help tidy up, you can always call your local government.

“If there is a really bad problem, like the grass is a foot tall and there are junk cars on the front lawn, your neighbors are probably in violation of local codes and can be forced to clean up,” says John Z. Wetmore, producer of the TV show Perils for Pedestrians.

Do this well in advance of putting your house on the market. The city could give your neighbor up to 90 days to meet housing codes.

Wetmore also suggests that you “walk around the block and pick up any litter along the public streets and sidewalks.”

If the house is a bank-owned foreclosure, find out which bank owns the property by checking county title records. Insist the bank maintain the property.

5. Plant view-blocking trees or install a fence

It might be worth the investment to block an unsavory view. If you plant trees, choose ones that are at least 6 feet tall to give you an immediate sense of privacy. Privacy fences should also be 6 feet high.

If your neighbors are noisy, putting in a small waterfall can drown out the racket.

“You only have one first impression,” says Ross Anthony. “You want potential buyers to fall in love with your home before writing it off due to an unkempt neighboring property.”

More From Trulia:

TIME United Kingdom

This London Homeowner Came Up With a Genius Way of Taking Revenge on Her Neighbors

And the neighbors are seeing red. Lots of it

One disgruntled Londoner has come up with a diabolical way of taking revenge on neighbors who opposed redevelopment works on her multimillion-dollar townhouse. She’s turned it into a garish local eyesore by painting it red and white.

The candy-striped three-story house can be found on a quiet street in Kensington, one of London’s wealthiest districts, reports the Guardian.

The owner gave her house the makeover after neighbors objected to plans to demolish the building and replace it with a five-story home, including a two-story basement.

Neighbors are appalled with the paint job, calling it “hideous” and “an eyesore.”

“I don’t think it belongs here. It kind of glows in the evening. It’s fluorescent. And the half-finished stripe is driving me mad,” 19-year-old Saskia Moyle, who lives across the road from the house, told the Guardian.

Maybe they’ll let her demolish it after all.

[The Guardian]


What the Oscar Movies Can Teach Us About Money

The envelope please...

2015 Warrens Award
Leah Bailey

The Oscars do a fine job of honoring great movies. But who honors great movies about money?

No one—until now, that is. To accompany the 87th Academy Awards, MONEY is inaugurating its own prizes to commemorate 2014’s finest cinematic lessons in personal finance. We’re calling them the Warrens, in a nod to Warren Buffett, the shrewd money manager who’s also a celebrated dispenser of financial common sense.

Had the Warrens existed in past years, awards likely would have gone to movies like Blue Jasmine, for which Cate Blanchett won a 2014 Oscar portraying a woman whose life falls apart after her husband’s Madoff-like fraud is exposed. One key lesson from that movie: Don’t abdicate all financial responsibilities to your spouse. Another: Bad things can happen if your self-image is tied up in your net worth.

Another past recipient would have been the 2009 Best Picture Oscar winner, Slumdog Millionaire, which, despite its focus on a get-rich-quick game show, argues that love, not money, is the key to happiness.

So which 2014 movies win this year’s Warrens, and what lessons do they teach?

The envelope please….

— By Kara Brandeisky, Margaret Magnarelli, Susie Poppick, Ian Salisbury, Taylor Tepper, and Jackie Zimmermann


  • Best Argument for the Value of Education

    BOYHOOD, Patricia Arquette, 2014.
    Matt Lankes—IFC Films/Courtesy Everett Collection


    In this Best Picture-nominated movie, Olivia (played by Oscar favorite Patricia Arquette), raising two children without their father, goes back to school to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. That effort ultimately helps her land a dream job as a psychology professor. At a lunch celebrating her son Mason’s high school graduation, Olivia encounters a young man she once hired to install her septic tank and whom she had encouraged to go to community college. Turns out he did just that and now runs the restaurant where she’s eating. “You changed my life,” he tells Olivia. No, it was education that did it—for both of them. (For a guide to affordable colleges that have the strongest economic payback, check out Money’s Best Colleges.)

  • Best Lesson in Estate Planning

    THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, from left: Paul Schlase, Tony Revolori, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, 2014.
    Martin Scali—Fox Searchlight/Courtesy Everett Collection

    The Grand Budapest Hotel

    In director Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated movie, famed concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) is willed a priceless work of art, “Boy With Apple,” by a rich patron of his hotel—who also happened to be his lover. The deceased’s progeny are none too pleased by this unexpected turn and go to great lengths to reclaim the valuable piece of art. This drama could have been avoided if the murdered Madame D (Tilda Swinton) had simply followed good practices in estate planning, such as identifying which possession should go to which people.

  • Best Career-Change Advice (tie)

    BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE), (aka BIRDMAN), from left: Zach Galifianakis, Michael Keaton, 2014.
    Alison Rosa—20th Century Fox


    Onetime movie star Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) sinks his life savings into a Broadway play to revitalize his career; the attendant pressures, financial on top of personal, pose serious threats to his mental health. One key takeaway: If you’re looking for a second-act career, make sure you have the resources to fund your new venture without having to make the drastic move, in Thomson’s case, of refinancing the Malibu home you promised to your daughter.

  • Best Career-Change Advice (tie)

    LETS BE COPS, from left: Damon Wayans, Jake Johnson, 2014.
    Frank Masi—20th Century Fox Licensing/Everett Collection

    Let’s Be Cops

    This buddy movie won’t win any Oscars — it scored a pathetic 30 of 100 on Metacritic—but it’s got our vote for job-switching smarts. Pals Justin (Jake Johnson) and Ryan (Damon Wayans Jr.) dress up as the fuzz for a costume party, find they like the attention their garb garners, and decide to keep up the act. After they get mixed up in a real crime, one of them—spoiler alert!— heads to the police academy. It’s a smart move to do a trial run on a dream second career. Not so smart: breaking the law in the process.

  • Best Performance by a Financing Campaign

    VERONICA MARS, Kristen Bell, 2014.
    Robert Voets—Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Veronica Mars

    Spunky detective Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) transitioned from the small screen to the big one in 2014 to help clear the name of her hottie ex Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). While fans of the cancelled TV show were delighted to see the Neptune High gang reunited, it wasn’t the contents of this film that earned it a Warren — it was the financing. Appealing to a rabid Veronica Mars fan base, Bell and show creator Rob Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the film. The effort paid off: The film stands as Kickstarter’s highest-funded film project, and the sixth-highest-funded project ever for the site. If you have a project you’d like to raise money for, start with these tips for a successful crowdfunding campaign.

  • Best Small-Business Strategy

    CHEF, from left: Emjay Anthony, Jon Favreau, 2012.
    Merrick Morton—Open Road Films/Courtesy Everett Collection


    This indie hit isn’t just about food and family. It’s also about how to promote your small business on social media—and how not to. High-powered chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) makes a big mistake after joining Twitter, losing his cool and firing off a series of obscenity-laced tweets at a famous restaurant blogger. After Carl loses his job, however, his son Percy uses savvier social media posts in a wildly successful effort to promote Carl’s new venture, a Cuban sandwich truck.

  • Best Real Estate Recommendation

    NEIGHBORS, from left: Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen, 2014.
    Glen Wilson—Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection


    Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), adjusting to life with a newborn, suddenly have their lives turned upside down when a fraternity moves in next door. Frats throw parties—loud ones that make it hard for babies to fall asleep—and soon the couple and the frat engage in an escalating series of pranks meant to make one another’s lives unbearable. Don’t want to end up like the Radners? Make sure you follow these steps when shopping for a home, and find a good real estate agent who is extremely knowledgeable about the neighborhood where you’re looking.

  • Best Sales Pitch

    A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, from left: Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks, 2014.
    Atsushi Nishijima—Courtesy Everett Collection

    A Most Violent Year

    In this movie from Margin Call director J. C. Chandor, beleaguered heating-oil company owner Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) coaches his sales force on how to close a deal. The key, he says, is projecting an aura of quality in even the subtlest of gestures—if a customer offers coffee or tea, for example, take tea because it’s the “fancy” choice. “We’re never going to be the cheapest option, so we have to be the best,” he says. “When you look them in the eye you have to believe that we are better—and we are—but you will never do anything as hard as staring a person straight in the eye and telling the truth.” Of course, sending a message about quality—whether or not it’s true—does something else: it gets people to spend more. That’s why we pull back the curtain on all the subliminal tricks that salespeople use to loosen your purse strings.

  • Best Argument for Having a Nest Egg

    THE GAMBLER, from left: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, 2014.
    Claire Folger—Paramount/Courtesy Everett Colle

    The Gambler

    You’ve probably heard of the importance of building up an emergency fund in order to cope when disaster strikes in the form of a job loss, or perhaps a costly family health issue. The necessity of having a nest egg to fall back on takes quite a different level of importance in this film, in which a literature professor and severe gambling addict named Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) winds up owing several hundred thousand dollars to various underworld characters. At one point, Bennett turns for help to another loanshark named Frank (John Goodman), who offers a brilliant lecture on why an emergency fund is so critical—only with a lot more expletives than the typical personal finance expert. “Somebody wants you to do something, f*** you. Boss p***** you off, f*** you! Own your house. Have a couple bucks in the bank,” Frank explains. “A wise man’s life is based around f*** you. The United States of America is based on f*** you.”

    It’s worth noting that there are also better ways to pay off debt than turning to loansharks. Assuming, of course, your life isn’t on the line in the matter of a few days.

MONEY money etiquette

Help! Should I Accept Money From a Neighbor I Barely Know?

Here's your chance to give advice in the pages of MONEY magazine.

In MONEY’s “Readers to the Rescue” department, we publish questions from readers seeking help with sticky financial situations, along with advice from other readers on how to solve those problems. Here’s our latest reader question:

I’m a new mom. A neighbor, who we don’t know well, gave my husband $50 to put toward diapers. Should we accept the money?

What advice would you give? Fill out the form below and tell us about it. We’ll publish selected reader advice in an upcoming issue. (Your answer may be edited for length and clarity.)

Please include your contact information so we can get in touch; if we use your advice in the magazine, we’d like to check with you first, and possibly run your picture as well.

Thank you!

To submit your own question for “Readers to the Rescue,” send an email to

To be notified of future “Readers to the Rescue” questions and answers, find MONEY on Facebook or follow MONEY on Twitter.

MONEY Housing Market

POLL: What’s the Best Thing About Where You Live?

There are probably lots of great things about your town. But if you had to pick just one, what would it be?


TIME Culture

How Hollywood Can Get More Women to See Movies

Walt Disney Pictures The Queen of Mean gets to tell her side in Disney's Maleficent

Want your summer movie to have a big opening weekend? Adding a female protagonist will help

Traditionally summer blockbusters are created for, marketed to and star men. And most major movies this summer fit that mold, including Godzilla, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

But Maleficent, a film starring a woman — and an evil woman at that — cast a spell on audiences with a $70 million opening weekend, hitting the high end of its prerelease expectations. Why is the Disney film doing so well? The answer is women: 60% of the movie’s over-25 audience was female. Which means the other 51% of the population does matter when it comes to creating a box-office hit.

Earlier this year, an analysis by Vocativ found that movies with strong female roles make more money. This means movies that pass the Bechdel test — a simple evaluation that questions whether two women spoke to each other in the movie about something other than a man — score higher numbers at the domestic box office. And yet, 2013 was a dismal year for women in film: of the top 100 grossing films in 2013, women made up only 15% of the protagonists, 29% of the major characters and only 30% of all speaking characters, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

That trend seems to slowly be changing. The Heat, Frozen and The Hunger Games were some of the industry’s biggest hits last year. This summer things look even better: Angelina Jolie, Emily Blunt, Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Lawrence, Cameron Diaz and Rose Byrne are all featured on the silver screen — along with a brood of male superheroes and a giant green lizard (who we’ll call genderless). Studios are finally catching on.

Unsurprisingly, movies with the most robust roles for women drew the highest percentage of females: The Other Woman’s audience was 75% female; Maleficent’s 60%; and Neighbors’ 53%. The first film stars three actresses (though their dialogue may be problematic), the second centers on superstar Angelina Jolie, and the third film actually lets Rose Byrne deliver almost as many jokes as co-stars Zac Efron and Seth Rogen.


(A word on the sneaky feminism of Neighbors: as he promotes the movie, screenwriter and star Seth Rogen has spoken about consciously subverting Hollywood’s gender stereotypes. “That actually became the most exciting idea of the movie to us,” Rogen told Studio360. “That we could portray a couple where the wife is just as fun-loving and irresponsible as the guy, and they get along really well. In a comedy that’s almost nonexistent.” Neighbors features a fantastic scene in which married couple Rogen and Byrne debate who gets to be the irresponsible one in the relationship. He says she has to be because she’s the woman and the woman is always the wet towel. She says that’s not fair and refuses to act as his babysitter. Keep writing dialogue like this, Rogen!)

Meanwhile, movies with less interesting parts for women didn’t pull as many ladies into theaters. X-Men: Days of Future Past counts Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry and Ellen Page among its stars, but Berry is given little to do except look worried and Page — whose character goes back in time in the comic books — spends the whole movie massaging Wolverine’s head while he takes her place as all-important time traveler. Lawrence gets plenty of screen time, but her character is a clear bid for young men’s tickets sales — the Oscar winner is covered in blue body paint for most of the film. So only 44% of X-Men‘s audience was female.

Godzilla and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, both of which offer pretty female flimsy roles, clock in at 42% female and 39% female, respectively. These movies still did well at the box office, but would more women have seen X-Men if Kitty Pride (Page) was the character going back in time? My guess is yes.

The theory will continue to be tested this week when two more movies with strong female protagonists — The Fault in Our Stars, starring Woodley, and Edge of Tomorrow, co-starring Blunt along with Tom Cruise — open in theaters.

The takeaway? Getting a lot of women to see your movie is not essential to its success. Superhero and monster movies will continue to draw big crowds: Spider-Man, X-Men and Godzilla all had at least $90 million opening weekends. But courting more women certainly doesn’t hurt. After all, females make up 51% of the population.

TIME movies

How Seth Rogen Became the Stoner King of Comedy

"Neighbors" - Los Angeles Premiere
Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic

Topping the box office this week in Neighbors, Rogen shows he's the frontrunner in a new crop of comedy stars who don't rely on the usual tricks

Sporting a crew cut and a scowl, Seth Rogen assumes the voice of a farmer who dreams of planting “the finest reefer the Midwest has ever grown.” He adds: “That’s why when some idiot teacher tells me I’m not livin’ up to my potential, I just smile, ’cause I know I am.”

He was 16 or 17 when he auditioned for the cast of executive producer Judd Apaptow’s 1999 TV comedy Freaks and Geeks, but this one-minute tape already captures two of the three aspects of the Seth Rogen audiences have come to embrace: the pothead who’s an underachiever and proud of it. The third part of his appeal is the booming basso laugh, which makes him sound like the weirdest, most genial Jewish Santa Claus. (Rogen launched his career, in his hometown of Vancouver, B.C., as a teen standup comic making jokes about his bar mitzvah.)

(FIND: Freaks and Geeks on James Poniewozik’s list of the all-TIME 100 TV Shows)

This year, Rogen’s Christmas or Hanukkah came in May. Neighbors, which he starred in and produced, topped the weekend box office with $51.1 million — the strongest opening for a live-action comedy since Ted two summers ago, and an amazing start for a movie with a piddling $18-million budget. Evicting The Amazing Spider Man 2 from its one-week throne, Neighbors earned about as much money as The Great Gatsby did exactly a year ago.

Does this make Rogen the slob DiCaprio, the louche Leo? Maybe not: his affect doesn’t announce him as an obvious star. A pudgy fellow with glasses and, often, a scruffy beard, he’s the kind of actor who in earlier decades would have played supporting parts: the handsome hero’s wise-cracking pal. But movie comedy is a democracy whose most prominent players need not look as if they had stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. Jonah Hill, another thoroughbred from the Apatow stable, is also roundish and Jewish, but with a prickly edge. Rogen’s special gift to audiences is that he projects a sweet, unthreatening geniality — and, though he might cringe to hear it, an essential niceness. That’s what makes him, at 32, the stoner king of comedy.

(READ: Corliss’s review of Neighbors)

In the Freaks and Geeks class that also included James Franco and Jason Segel, Rogen’s comedy professor was Judd Apatow, the show’s executive producer. Apatow would go on to cast Rogen in a prominent supporting role in The 40 Year Old Virgin, give him the prime male role as the one-night stand confronted with fatherhood in Knocked Up and produce Superbad, the high-school comedy that Rogen and his writing partner (and fellow bar mitzvah student) Evan Goldberg had begun scripting when they were 13. Each movie had earned more than $100 million at the domestic box office by the end of 2007, when Rogen was all of 25.

The hits kept on coming for the actor-writer-producer, with the weed-driven, low-budget comedies Pineapple Express and This Is the End, which co-starred Franco and Hill, and took in another easy $100 million last summer. Add the distinctive voice work Rogen has contributed to such animated features as Shrek the Third, Horton Hears a Who!, Monsters vs. Aliens and Kung Fu Panda, and the total North American gross for his movies is more than $1.7 billion — a nice haul for the tyke tycoon of toke.

(READ: Mary Pols on Seth Rogen’s This Is the End)

Rogen’s Ken Miller in Freaks and Geeks was surly and acerbic — Segel asks him, “Can you ever not be sarcastic?” and Rogen replies, sarcastically, “I’m sarcastic?” — but with a furtive sensitivity. In one episode Ken stands outside the band room, watching with mournful devotion as his beloved “Tuba Girl” practices. That may have been the last time a Rogen character did any pining. He gives every evidence of being at ease with his girth (or he wouldn’t be photographed nude in the Knocked Up and Neighbors sex scenes) and the prematurely middle-age persona he has carried his entire public life.

Even in his early twenties, Rogen possessed the antiauthoritarian authority of an indulgent uncle who tells the kids to do whatever stupidly enjoyable thing they want. He’s a master of making a boast on matters other men might be ashamed of, as when he strode on stage at the 2012 Golden Globes in the company of sexy Kate Beckinsale and announced, “Hello, I’m Seth Rogen, and I am currently trying to conceal a massive erection.” But he also uses his celebrity in mature ways. He’s a spokesman for an Alzheimer’s awareness foundation — and, of course, a member of NORML, which agitates for the legalization of marijuana.

The best joke in Neighbors is that Rogen plays the voice of middle-age propriety — a husband and the father of an infant girl — to the rowdy young frat boys, led by the preening Teddy (Zac Efron), who have moved in next door. This battle of the generations has a couple of nuances: Rogen is just five-and-a-half years older than Efron, the erstwhile High School Musical heartthrob; and Rogen’s Mac, for all his annoyance that the loud music keeps him, his wife Kelly (Rose Byrne) and baby Sheila up at four in the morning, wants in on the frat guys’ hard partying. In his early thirties, he’s afraid that “All the things I used to do, I can’t do any more.” What is presented as a war between Teddy and Mac is really an internal struggle: Mac the protective father vs. Mac the fun-loving dopester. It’s a midlife crisis for a perennial teenager.

(READ: Lily Rothman’s 11 Questions for the Baby from Neighbors)

How will Rogen build on Neighbors’ break-out-hit status? It won’t take long to find out. Among his films near completion are the animated feature, Sausage Party — we’re guessing that, like most of Rogen’s movies, this will be rated R — and The Interview, in which he and Franco are a talk-show producer and his host who blunder into a U.S. government assignment to assassinate North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

His most beguiling project is an adaptation of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, directed by Franco and featuring a diverse cast: Franco, his brother Dave (Efron’s second-in-command in the Neighbors frat house), Pineapple Express costar Danny McBride and Jon Hamm of Mad Men. We don’t know what role Rogen plays in this convoluted tale of Southern aristocracy gone to seed, but it should serve as a refutation to the reporter in This Is the End who told Rogen, “You play the same guy in every movie. When are you going to do something else?”

(READ: Mary Corliss’s review of James Franco’s first Faulkner film, As I Lay Dying)

The Sound and the Fury could give a fascinating twist to the character that has made Seth Rogen one of America’s top stars: the friendly dopester almost anyone would want as a neighbor.

TIME movies

Neighbors Crashes Spider-Man’s Box Office Party

Film Title: Neighbors
Glen Wilson—Universal Pictures

The film about a fraternity that moves next door to a young couple greatly surpassed expectations by beating out The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for the top spot at the weekend box office. Neighbors raked in $51.1 million to Spider-Man's $37.2 million

Neighbors surprised industry experts this weekend by scooping up $51.1 million and taking the top spot at the box office.

The comedy, starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, was not only expected to lose out to The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but industry analysts predicted the film would only make around $35 million in its debut weekend, USA Today reports. The Spidey sequel came in second with an estimated $37.2 million on the weekend.

(MORE: REVIEW: Neighbors, When the Outrageous Becomes the Cliché)

Neighbors continues a frat house comedy legacy that Universal introduced with National Lampoon’s Animal House,” said Paul Dergarabedian of Rentrak, a firm that analyzes the entertainment industry and provided Sunday’s preliminary estimates. “R-rated comedy is a powerful draw.”

Don’t forget the adorable babies, too.

(MORE: The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s Box Office Won’t Amaze Marvel)

[USA Today]

TIME movies

Questions I Wish I Could Ask the Baby From Neighbors

Neighbors Poster

The true stars of Neighbors can't do an interview — but here's what we would have asked

In this poster for the new movie Neighbors, out May 9, the text makes it clear that Seth Rogen and Zac Efron are the stars. But as you may notice, that’s not a picture of either of them.

Instead, that’s a picture of Stella, the baby who makes Rogen’s character care that the frat-dudes next door won’t keep it down. She’s played by Elise and Zoey Vargas — as with most on-screen infants, two babies play the one role — and, despite the major comedy chops of her co-stars, she steals the show.

Though my colleague Richard Corliss was disappointed that she functions as a comedy prop rather than a character — and yes, she does go some kind of scary places where a non-prop baby ought not — she does have comedy bona fides when she’s allowed to shine. If she were old enough to talk, it could be a break-out performance — the kind an entertainment journalist would love to highlight. Unfortunately, however, the Mses. Vargas are not available for interviews. (I checked.) And, even if they were making a tour of the junket circuit, it’s tough to do a Q&A with an infant. (I assume.)

So, in lieu of such an Q&A, here are the Qs I would have asked them if they could talk:

What attracted you to this project?

What were your first impressions upon reading the script?

Who are your comedy influences?

Did you get any career advice from the veteran actors with whom you were working?

Did the director give you any room to improvise?

That scene where you roll over in the crib has some pretty impressive timing…

You’re welcome. Did you have to do a lot of takes on that one?

Stanislavski or Meisner?

Who has a smoother stroller-pushing technique, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne or your real-life folks?

How do you feel about the number of funny, female roles available in mainstream Hollywood right now? Is it a tough environment for a comedienne starting out?

It seems like this must have been a pretty fun set. Who was the resident prankster?

Oh, really? Whoa.

The world may never know the answers to these questions, as it’s unlikely Elise and Zoey Vargas will remember them by the time they’re old enough to tell (fortunately for the reputation of any on-set pranksters). But there is one question we can answer on their behalf:

What’s next?

Catch Elise and Zoey Vargas as baby Trevor in the upcoming Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, in theaters this October.

TIME movies

Neighbors Made Zac Efron Want to Do More Comedy

Film Title: Neighbors
Glen Wilson—Universal Pictures

Zac Efron, Seth Rogen and director Nicholas Stoller tell TIME why Neighbors was so much fun to make

When the comedy Neighbors — which stars Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as Mac and Kelly Radner, a couple with a baby whose lives are upended when a rowdy fraternity led by Zac Efron’s Teddy Sanders moves next door — was originally conceived, Rogen and Efron’s characters were written as hate-filled rivals from minute one. But after hearing the two stars’ obvious chemistry at an early table read, it became clear that having them bond before developing their rift was essential. “We realized how much we would get along, and how funny we could be together,” Rogen, also a producer on the film, tells TIME. “Because of that, we extended the honeymoon period.”

In the film, which hits theaters May 9, the disparate lifestyles of the new parents and the fraternity lead to subterfuge and all-out war, including sexual schemes and violent booby traps all intended for maximum laughs. But first, Mac and Kelly see the last vestiges of their youth in the fraternity’s booze- and drug-fueled bashes, and integrate themselves into the perpetual party next door.

For Rogen, now is the time to deal with the issue of trying to sidestep adulthood — however unsuccessfully. “I’ve been the star of almost every movie I’ve had some hand in creating, and because of that, I’ve always made movies that focused on people [my] age,” says Rogen. “Now, I’m 32, I’m married, and a lot of my friends have kids or are having kids. So it only seemed natural to make a movie that embraced that.”

Neighbors marks an even greater turning point for Efron, with the 26-year-old heartthrob top-lining (along with Rogen) his first adult comedy, and also for the first time playing a villainous character. “Mostly I was just excited,” says Efron. “The caliber of work when you’re on set with [guys like this] is really smart and funny. You have to be ready for anything. The hardest part [for me] was finding some heart in this character, because he does a lot of really heinous things, and he’s nothing like me. This is the furthest character from myself that I’ve ever played.”

Hinging as it does on the chemistry between the two leads, the film found a bonding point in an early party scene where a wasted Mac and Teddy compare Batman impressions. The improvised scene sets the stage for the battle to come, making the film’s central feud not just a disagreement between neighbors, but the result of a perceived betrayal between two people who, if even for just a fleeting moment, cared about each other.

The scene evolved from a desire to find a funny way to depict the difference in age between the two. “We were trying to find slight variations [in our tastes],” says Efron, “small generational differences in things like video games.”

“We knew we wanted them to talk about the difference in their generations,” says director Nicholas Stoller. “I noticed Zac doing Batman impressions [on the set]. He does a really good Bane. So we were shooting the scene with all these jokes we’d written, but it felt forced. If they don’t bond in that scene, then the movie won’t work. One of them started talking about Batman, and I yelled from behind the monitor, ‘Just compare Batman impressions.’ I’m rarely sure that I got something until I’m cutting the movie, but [after that], I was like, that’s gonna be in the movie. That’s kinda magical.”

“It perfectly demonstrates the generational divide between the guys,” says Rogen, “but it also shows that if circumstances were different, they would really get along.”

For Efron, the set’s free-flowing nature was liberating, if not a bit stressful.

“In a film like this, in this genre, it’s instrumental to be able to be on your toes and stay in character,” says Efron. “Improvising with certain people brings out the best in you, and the advantage here was, these guys are incredible at it. It’s a challenge, because you don’t know what you’re going to say, so you literally just have to be. It’s freeing in a way. I had a blast.”

Now that he’s been seduced by the improvisational comedy bug, Neighbors could represent a turning point in Efron’s career: audiences are likely to wonder if he’ll join the likes of Rogen, Paul Rudd and more in becoming a staple of the modern comedy.

“I could see that happening, for sure,” says Efron. “I think it’s all [about] who you surround yourself with. I’m really lucky to be in a movie with these guys, and I would jump at the chance to do it again.”

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