Arts and Entertainment

Rogen plays Rogen, again — this time in 'Neighbors'

Zac Efron plays to his strengths in ‘Neighbors.’   - UNIVERSAL PICTURES
Zac Efron plays to his strengths in ‘Neighbors.’
— image credit: UNIVERSAL PICTURES

By Brian Miller

Seattle Weekly

 

If his buddy James Franco can star in a current Broadway revival of “Of Mice and Men,” is it possible for Seth Rogen to elevate his profile beyond that of schlubby stoner? He lost weight for “The Green Hornet” and audiences responded with a collective shrug.

This fun but formulaic comedy pits Rogen against Zac Efron, the former as a married new father and the latter playing the rival patriarch of a rowdy frat house next door. The conflict writes itself — “We’ve got to get Delti Psi put on probation, so our baby can sleep at night!” — and you really do feel these two likeable stars could do more. If not Steinbeck, then something that moves them against type.

Efron, once the Disney idol, is certainly capable of undermining his image (and embracing it, in several shirtless scenes). When Rogen and wife (Rose Byrne) trick him into a fight with a loyal frat bro (Dave Franco), pushing and shoving give way to the dreaded mutual testicle grab. Efron stares at his foe and declares, with berserk conviction, “I’ll hold onto your balls forever!” He’s committed to playing the handsome dunce and wading in the warm-hearted raunch that’s the hallmark of Apatow-land (the film is directed by Nicholas Stoller, of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”).

Rogen is a veteran of that milieu, again inhabiting the familiar role of the shambling, genial dude who doesn’t want to be an adult. When he and the wife get into a fight, they debate who ought to be the “Kevin James” — i.e. the irresponsible partner — in their marriage. But, really, the term they ought to be using is “Seth Rogen.” And that’s the problem with this movie’s ambition: It simply lets Rogen be Rogen.

 

Opens today, May 9, at Lincoln Square Cinemas and wide release. Rated R. 96 Minutes.

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