Seth Rogen’s acting career took off fifteen years ago when he was cast in Freaks and Geeks, and over the last ten years he’s become a movie star. And though he’s nowhere near finished, one gets the sense that if Rogen ever had a wild period, he’s past it (it seems his biggest public faux pas is making a film like The Guilt Trip). He’s married, he’s a successful writer, producer, actor and director, and though he still has a bit of a baby face, he’s no longer capable of playing schlubby twenty-something losers, and it seems that he’s intentionally moving away from those types. Neighbors, as directed by Nick Stoller, suggests that though Rogen still has some of that party animal in him, he’s also transitioned into being an adult both onscreen and off. My Neighbors Blu-ray review follows after the jump.
In the film Rogen plays recent father Mac Radner, and the film opens with he and his wife Kelly (Rose Byrne) trying to restart their love life while still being close enough to monitor their infant daughter. There’s a house for sale next door, and their lives are changed when the fraternity Delta Psi Beta buys it. Teddy (Zac Efron) is the president of the chapter, and Mac and Kelly welcome the frat to the neighborhood, but want them to know that they have to keep it down at night. Later that evening the couple come over to complain but are invited in to join the party. They stay all night, and Mac and Teddy bond, so Mac promises that he will call first if there’s a noise problem and that he won’t involve the cops.
Of course – after Mac repeatedly calls Teddy and gets no response – he breaks that promise, which leads to a war. At first it’s the frat leaving a mess on their lawn, which then leads Mac to sabotage the frat house – though that backfires when the boys figure out a brilliant way to make money in a pinch. Eventually Mac and Kelly get their recently divorced friends Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) and Paula (Carlo Gallo) to help get Teddy’s girlfriend to sleep with the frat’s vice president Pete (Dave Franco) to force Teddy to make bad decisions. But that just raises the stakes when Mac and Kelly are so close to getting the frat house closed down for good, and this couple wants to scorch the earth.
The Judd Apatow model of “shoot multiple takes, make decisions in the editing room” has served modern comedy well for over a decade, and director Nick Stoller follows that model here, though in this film (which runs a relatively lean 97 minutes) it feels like there are a number of subplots that either didn’t work, or messed with the drive of the film. Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays Scoonie, a frat member who is notorious for his ridiculously huge penis, yet in the finished film that joke feels like an afterthought, along with his relationship with Paula, who doesn’t get as much screentime as her ex-husband. That’s a shame, as the film does right by having Rose Byrne be as game as the rest of the crew, but every other female character gets scant screentime.
Then again, the film is driven by the fact that Efron and Rogen once felt a brotherly bond that is broken, so it was always going to be mostly about two men in a pissing match (even if they started out sword-fighting). Rogen is charming playing a mostly responsible adult, though the film makes both his character and Byrne’s look pretty unsympathetic for much of the movie, which was always the nature of this sort of film. And Rogen has a great comic partner in Byrne, who proves to be game for anything, including the film’s biggest gross out gag sequence. But this is Efron’s movie in that he finally gets to be in a film adult men can say they like without being hazed, and he’s great in it. His character is a guy who’s so bought into the life that he hasn’t thought about what’s next, where Dave Franco (the film’s secret weapon, Franco is consistently hilarious) is the one who’s ready to move on and become an adult. That’s why Teddy and Mac (and Kelly) can cross horns so well; they aren’t ready to move on in their lives, even if they have to.
And if the escalating stakes of people you like acting mean to each other isn’t the most entertaining movie to hang a film on, the film has that cushion of also being about people who are unable to let go and grow up. Though the film is firmly on the side of Mac and Kelly, it shows that even though they are parents, they haven’t fully accepted that role yet. Even more than Teddy, they needed to see that it’s time to grow up, something that Rogen recognized about the next stage of his career.
Universal’s Blu-ray comes with a DVD and Digital copy, while the film is presented in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. The transfer is excellent, and digital to digital always looks good (and relatively filmic, we’re getting to a point where digital is looking better than ever). Extras kick off with an alternate opening showing Delta Psi Beta burning down their original house (7 min.) and its followed by seven deleted and three alternate scenes (13 min.) that are mostly trims, which feature Bobby Moynihan and Nathan Fielder among other axed cameos. “Line-O-Rama” (3 min.) shows a sequence with some improv’d dialogue, while the Gag Reel (6 min.) shows the cast breaking, and some alternate scenes. “An Unlikely Pair” (6 min.) talks about the relationship between Rogen and Efron in and out of the film, while “Partying with the Neighbors” (7 min.) is the more standard behind the scenes look of the extras. “On Set With…” (5 min.) focuses on the film’s fake wieners, while “The Frat” (6 min.) talks to the frat supporting players (including some of the cameo players). Considering the paucity of deleted scenes, and lack of commentary, it’s possible that a special edition will be made available later, or that Universal didn’t think the film would be one of the bigger hits of the summer, because this is one of the lightest amounts of supplements I’ve seen for a film like this.