Though Seth Rogen is still best known for his onscreen bromances — an association strengthened by his last starring role in (and co-direction of) the dude-pocalypse comedy This is the End — he’s slowly helping to make the big screen a more hospitable place for actresses and comediennes.
In This is the End, Rogen and his fellow writer-director Evan Goldberg showed “how to do a rape joke effectively,” according to Alyssa Rosenberg, by focusing on “how hard it is for men and women to talk about rape, to communicate their good intentions to each other, and to avoid creeping each other out.” (The Village Voice‘s Alan Scherstuhl also noted that the sausage party hosted “refreshingly little gay-panic talk.)
Rogen continues his battle against the scourges of studio comedies in the “squares versus the students”-premised Neighbors, this time against the tiresome trope of the nagging wife whose sole purpose is to cross her arms and nay-say the hero. After his fellow producers changed the older pair from male friends to a married couple, Rogen insisted the wife, played by Rose Byrne, get just as many chances to be funny as her husband.
That seemingly tiny change is “what makes Neighbors exceptional, rather than merely great,” as I wrote in my review for TheWrap:
“[Director Nicholas] Stoller [and his screenwriters] acknowledge how dreadfully formulaic and subtly (or not-so-subtly) sexist the genre has become… in a scene where Mac [Rogen] and Kelly [Byrne] point out their fat guy-hot wife dynamic. ‘I’m the dumb guy!’ Mac proclaims. ‘Haven’t you seen a Kevin James movie?’ Kelly retorts that she doesn’t want to be the responsible one; it’s boring being a nag.”
Byrne then gets plenty of chances to prove how fierce and funny her mama-bear character can be.
Unsurprisingly, Rogen was inspired to make Kelly a fully developed person by his wife, writer-actress Lauren Miller. “That actually became the most exciting idea of the movie to us — that we could portray a couple where the wife is just as fun loving and irresponsible as the guy, and where they got along really well,” he told Studio 360. “In a comedy, that is almost nonexistent — a healthy couple that really likes each other. Me and my wife are much more like that.”