I schlepped over to the Sony lot Monday to corner 18-year producing partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg at their Point Grey bungalow. It’s the second time I’ve interviewed Rogen with my trusty flipcam–the first was five years ago at SXSW on Jody Hill’s dark comedy “Observe and Report.”
Rogen has come a long way since his Judd Apatow apprenticeship on “Freaks and Geeks,” “Knocked Up,” “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express.” He has always seen himself as a writer first and actor second. But he and Goldberg are superb producers and directors as well–along the Apatow model. They produced and Rogen starred opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in true cancer drama “50/50,” as well as producing, writing and directing the summer apocalyptic comedy “This is the End.”
And they developed and produced “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” director Nicholas Stoller’s surprisingly mature “Neighbors” (May 9), which marks Rogen’s best performance to date, opposite “Bridesmaids” comedienne Rose Byrne and well-muscled Zac Efron. Universal Pictures smartly debuted the raunchy, R-rated comedy about domestic warmongers at SXSW 2014, where it picked up great word-of-mouth from festival-goers and critics alike. (It’s at 100% on the Tomatometer.)
This well-constructed contemporary comedy reveals Rogen and “Bridesmaids” star Byrne at their whip-smart best as hip young parents who are reveling in their new baby (the most adorable movie baby ever) until new neighbors move in next door. It’s the nightmare from hell: a raucous fraternity house dominated by ringleader Efron. At first Rogen and Byrne make nice with the enemy, trying a tad too hard to be cool and showing them that they too, baby monitor in hand, can party all night. While Efron and his boys play along, they have no intention of changing their wild ways and the neighbors are soon engaged in all-out war.
Stoller inventively ratchets up the stakes and physical slapstick as the 30-somethings and Efron’s frat boys attack and counter. One skit involving the well-placed deployment of exploding airbags is hilarious. Efron is unexpectedly winning as a dimwitted bully with great abs; offering stalwart support are Dave Franco, brother of James, Jake Johnson and Lisa Kudrow. Produced by Point Grey and Mandate (“Juno”), the film was shot in less than two months on an $18 million budget.
Goldberg and Rogen make movies that reflect how old they are, the two married men tell me in our video interview below.