Neighbors: Zac Efron Versus Seth Rogen


Opens Fri., May 9 at Sundance and other theaters. Rated R. 96 minutes.

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, but no one cared. This fun but formulaic comedy pits him, as a married homeowner and new father, against Zac Efron, playing the rival patriarch of a rowdy frat house next door. We’ve got to get Delta Psi put on probation, so our baby can sleep at night! The conflict writes itself, and you really do feel these likeable two 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, to the warm-hearted raunch that’s the hallmark of Apatow-land (Nicholas Stoller, of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, directs).

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.

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