May 28, 2014
Seth Rogen plays a new father whose pleasant domestic life with his lovely wife and extremely cute baby is disrupted when a loud college fraternity, headed by Zac Efron, buys the house next door. Torn between wanting to still seem cool to the kids and getting them to turn the damn music down so they can get some sleep, the couple eventually launches a maniacal plot against the bros.
Neighbors is consistently mildly amusing, although not as funny as Rogen's This Is the End last year. One problem is that Rogen isn't really cut out for playing the over-the-top fat guy in the tradition of John Belushi, John Candy, and Chris Farley (although he's probably going to live longer). Nor is he a surprisingly graceful fat guy in the tradition of W.C. Fields, Jackie Gleason, and Kevin James. Rogen's more the voice-of-reason type of lazy guy who makes other people around him funnier.
The funniest thing I've ever seen Rogen to do was a joint interview with Barbra Streisand on Dr. Phil promoting some movie they made together. Not surprisingly, Streisand is a tad megalomaniacal, and Rogen egged her on and quietly undermined her, directing attention to her elderly diva mania, apparently without her noticing. (I presume they'd plotted it beforehand, but who knows?)
Rose Byrne, a generically pretty Australian actress, plays Rogen's wife. She's given lots of opportunity to be funny in long conversations with Rogen, but her Down Under accent keeps reminding me that this would be more amusing if her role had been played by Rebel Wilson, the fat, blonde, and remarkably malicious Australian comic actress. Perhaps Wilson's getting over-exposed, but I've only seen her in her jaw-dropping cameo as the hostile roommate who evicts Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids and as the self-confident Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect.
One question is why Seth Rogen's character, a schlub with a lousy cubicle job whose main source of workday satisfaction is smoking a joint with his loser buddy in the alley, has a starlet-looking wife. The simplest explanation would be that he'd recently inherited a few million from his Nana, which is hardly unbelievable these days. But, as Thomas Piketty points out, bequests never seem to come up in movies, even though inheritances were a rich source of drama in 19th Century novels.