- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A trio of comedies fighting for laughs highlight recent Blu-ray movie releases.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated R, 92 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $34.98) — The sequel to a comedic blockbuster from 2014 makes its high-definition debut to further explore the occasionally amusing adventures of new parents Mac and Kelly Radner and their perpetual problems with college students.

References to poop, vomit, sperm and bong water in the first five minutes set the tone for another moronic and sophomoric outing for Seth Rogan, back as the dad, and Amanda Byrne, returning as the mom.

In a story co-written and directed by Nicholas Stoller, the couple needs 30 days to close a deal on selling their home, but they find a new sorority moving in next door to potentially derail the contract. The sorority, led by crafty freshman Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), rivals “Animal House.”

To make matters worse, former frat boy archenemy of the Radners, Teddy Sanders (Zach Efron), mentors the Kappa Nu chicks, until they turn on him, and the shenanigans really begin.

Appearances by Lisa Kudrow, Kelsey Grammer and Dave Franco can’t save the effort with only one belly laugh delivered during my viewing process. Suffice to report, that’s 93 minutes I will never get back in my too-often humorless life.


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Best extras: Over an hour’s worth of bonus content tries to ramp up the laughs via a seemingly unending supply of deleted and extended scenes, alternate takes of dialogue and a gag reel. I’m still not laughing.

Additionally, the Blu-ray offers an all-important optional commentary track, recorded before the movie’s release, with Mr. Stoller and producer James Weaver explaining the finer points of the action.

The pair laugh it up throughout and focus on the pressures of making a sequel, using cheap visual effects (economically producing vomit, for example), reshooting scenes and touching on minutiae such as maximizing Selena Gomez (Phi Lamda president) set time, Mr. Efron always doing push-ups before a take to look his best and Mr. Stoller’s history with shooting party scenes.

Central Intelligence: Unrated (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 108 minutes, 2.39:1, $29.98) — The affable Dwayne Johnson, also known as “The Rock,” teamed up with Kevin Hart this summer to star in a blockbuster buddy comedy commanded and co-written by beloved “Dodgeball” director Rawson Marshall Thurber.

Its action-infused debut on high-definition gives viewers two cuts of the film — a PG-13 version and a 9-minute longer, raunchier version — as they watch the evolving relationship of high school acquaintances Robbie “Bob Stone” Wheirdicht (Mr. Johnson) and Calvin “Golden Jet” Joyner (Mr. Hart).

In a clever role reversal for the actors, The Rock eventually becomes a free-spirited rogue CIA agent and Mr. Hart plays a boring accountant caught up in his old pal’s chaotic mission as they try to save the world from terrorists controlling a satellite.

The onscreen chemistry between these jokesters is palpable with an enormous potential for laughs.

Unfortunately, the bounty of chuckles never really arrives due to a plot mired by double-agent silliness and a too-sobering backstory on how success or getting bullied in high school does not always shape the future adult.

Best extras: And, yet again, creators overload the Blu-ray disc with an avalanche of comedy moments to give fans an extended dose of The Rock-and-Hart tag team. That translates into over an hour of alternate scene takes, alternate lines and a gag reel.

Additionally, an incredibly interesting optional commentary track on both versions of the movie has the director interviewing editor Mike Sale about the intricacies of cutting a comedy film with both gentlemen exploring the entire filmmaking process.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated R, 98 minutes, 2.39:1, $39.99) — Director Jake Szymanski’s raunchy screwball comedy about a pair of energetic loser brothers looking for fake love with an energetic pair of loser friends now exists on Blu-ray to amuse home theater audiences.

The siblings Dave (Zach Efron in yet another crude comedy) and Mike Stangle (Adam DeVine) must find nice girls as dates for their little sister’s wedding in Hawaii to quell a family fed up with their shenanigans.

After posting online ads to find the lucky ladies, the pair have a chance meeting with Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza with an “you go girl” attitude throughout), and the occasional hilarious hijinks ensue.

The digital transfer shines when the boys get to the gorgeous islands, and highlights a stunning ATV ride and beachfronts, but it can’t help the overall lack of laughs.

Best extras: Once again, the Blu-ray contains an outrageous amount of extra potential laughs via 14 deleted and 16 extended scenes, a gag reel, replacement takes, and, most importantly, an alternate storyline pig sequence — all total clocking in at around an outrageous 100 minutes.

Yes, that’s longer than the movie. Well, it’s miss and intermittent hit for the guffaws, but the collection does display an incredible, workmanlike improv flexibility of the cast.

And, viewers get a chance to hear from the director in an optional commentary track for apparently the movie “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.” What? Nope, just an introductory joke from Mr. Szymanski. Let the verbal comedy begin.

Well, he has a good time talking nonstop about his effort, with help from a mystery tech woman named Margie who pops in at times and offers Mr. Szymanski constructive criticism on his commentary, his volume and modulation.

Fans will appreciate the effort as Mr. Szymanski explains Mr. Ephron’s proficiency on a trampoline, the chemistry of the cast, what happened when the real Stangle brothers shot a scene (the movie is sort of based on their story), a few tips for first-time directors, and how the first cut of the movie was five hours long due to the enormous amount of improvisation during the shoot.

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