HomeUpcomingSeth Rogen and Rose Byrne Reunite for Apple Tv's 'Platonic'

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne Reunite for Apple Tv’s ‘Platonic’

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Before Seth Rogen was the foul-mouthed, chuckling face of the Judd Apatow Cinematic Universe, before he accrued enough stature in Hollywood to oversee a handful of fictional universes himself, he parlayed the sardonic, more-sensitive-than-at-first-blush persona he established in Freaks and Geeks into a starring role on the second of Apatow’s turn-of-the-21st-century one season wonders, Undeclared. In one of that underrated campus comedy’s early episodes, Rogen’s character, Ron, makes a drunken, ice-breaking confession to his roommate, drama-school lothario Lloyd (Charlie Hunnam): Although he tells people his favorite movie is Red Dawn, it’s actually You’ve Got Mail.

Flash forward to Ron showing Lloyd Nora Ephron’s love-in-the-time-of-AOL update of Shop Around the Corner. Lloyd projects a disinterest, while a delighted Ron pitches the film’s merits: The concept is charming, the leads are likable, and the experience is above all pleasant. “It’s like waves lapping against the shore or something,” he says.

Watching Rogen and Rose Byrne in the new Apple TV+ series Platonic, you can understand how Lloyd might’ve felt on that dorm-room sofa. The show emphasizes time and again that Rogen and Byrne are quite endearing as a twosome rekindling their friendship after years of estrangement. And while “pleasant” isn’t the first adjective their hijinks bring to mind, it is frequently amusing. But several obstacles to Ron-like devotion remain.

The selling point of Platonic is the reunion of its two stars with its Neighbors director Nicholas Stoller. Stoller created the series with his wife, Francesca Delbanco, and its premise connects the dots between Rogen and Byrne’s cinematic misadventures as a married couple living next door to a frat house (and then, in the sequel, an ad hoc sorority) and Stoller and Delbanco’s subsequent two-season Netflix series, Friends from College.

Will (Rogen) and Sylvia (Byrne) were once the best of pals but fell out due to a disagreement over Will’s marriage. After learning Will is getting divorced, Sylvia reaches out to reconnect, and the hard-partying, belligerent shouting matches, and multiple glass-breaking accidents that ensue confirm expositional reports that the duo was a lot to deal with back in the day.

As in Neighbors, Stoller exhibits an Apatowian knack for harnessing the mismatched-bookends chemistry between Byrne and Rogen. And, as in Friends from College, Stoller and Delbanco have hatched a concept that might’ve been better served by a healthier Hollywood ecosystem that still made mid-budget theatrical comedies. The highs of the headliners getting decked out in gaudy chain-restaurant merch or Rogen interpreting for Byrne as she talks through mouthfuls of food are unfortunately drowned out by 10 half-hour episodes of hit-and-miss serialized threads wrapped around Will’s workplace integrity, Sylvia’s deferred professional ambitions, and the suspicions their renewed kinship raises for Sylvia’s husband, Charlie (Luke Macfarlane, following up his turn in the Stoller-directed Bros).

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne Reunite for Apple Tv's 'Platonic'
Luke Macfarlane in the Apple TV+ series PlatonicApple TV+

These neither-fish-nor-fowl qualities are all over Platonic. Will and Charlie each have a clutch of co-workers played by comic aces, but scenes set at the former’s craft brewery get more of an ad-lib-heavy friends-on-the-couch sitcom vibe whereas those in the latter’s office have the rhythms of cinematic scene stealers trading one-liners. (This goes double for Charlie and Sylvia’s three kids, who also count as the offspring of Maude and Iris Apatow’s performances in Knocked Up and This is 40.) The show works some strong episodic plots from a couple of wild nights out and Sylvia’s rocky return to practicing law (which eventually leads into a wild night out), but they’re strung together by the arcs and structures of romantic comedies and buddy films that are stretched to their limits by a weekly series.

This might be a little less noticeable if the show were doing anything truly novel with those conventions. There’s a whiff of freshness to the material that questions whether or not the intensity of Will and Sylvia’s connection is healthy, but that can’t fully mask the stale taste of Rogen playing a guy who could stand to grow up a little or Sylvia’s regrets over giving up a promising career to start a family.

And even though the pilot is quick to hang a lantern on its When Harry Met Sally… setup—thereby snuffing out any rehashing of Harry Burns and Sally Albright’s debate over whether men and women can be friends without sex getting in the way—the latter half of the season drives Charlie to conspiracy-board levels of madness as he attempts to untangle what’s really going on between his wife and the old chum with whom she’s sneaking through doggie doors and accidentally snorting ketamine.

Running on a parallel track is an almost-10-years-later refresh on Neighbors’ animating anxieties over clashing generations and no longer being able to rage like you used to.

As Sylvia puts it shortly before sending what she thinks is cocaine up her nose, “Fun has changed for me.” Derivative as this can get—last decade’s “Who’s Batman to you?” argument is this decade’s row over the relative attractiveness of Machine Gun Kelly—it does prompt the most inspired stretches of Platonic, where the distance that once grew between Sylvia and Will and the mid-life ruts that bring them back together are most apparent.

He’s trapped in a prison of cool, allowing a Gen-X notion of selling out to fuel a growing feud with his business partners, while a desire to still seem hip gives the wardrobe department the chance to dress Rogen like a Gen-Z hypebeast. She, meanwhile, watches from the sidelines as former colleagues and classmates make partner on top of making more kids, prompting Byrne’s own awkward encounter with The Youths when Sylvia joins a new law firm and must work her way from the bottom up.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne Reunite for Apple Tv's 'Platonic'
Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne in the Apple TV+ series PlatonicApple TV+

While Sylvia bombs with this young cohort, Byrne kills, strolling into frame to deliver some spectacularly miscalculated breakroom smack talk. No matter the deficiencies in Platonic’s storytelling, its central pairing shines. They are, for all the combustibility of their bond, a good hang—a sense enhanced by Rogen and Byrne’s onscreen ease.

Platonic can be very funny when it’s not trying to push 100 minutes of the story across five hours. (Depending on your taste for the shareable e-scooters that now litter the streets and sidewalks of many American cities, the many battles in Will’s personal war against these easily tipped-over hunks of metal will hit hard.) But the show is no Neighbors, no When Harry Met Sally…, no You’ve Got Mail (which Lloyd rightly comes around on by the end of that Undeclared episode).

It feels destined to the fate of so many high-profile projects of the streaming age, another tile heedlessly tossed onto the landing page. You might find a few yuks, the occasional flourish of visual ingenuity, and a winning double act in the form of Rogen and Byrne. But clicking on Platonic won’t reveal any lapping waves.

The first episode of Platonic premieres on Apple TV+ on Wednesday, May 24.

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