Bad Neighbours Film Review
Neighbourhood feuds are hard to get right in cinema. Put one foot wrong and you have Matthew Broderick in Deck The Halls and Christmas is ruined. With Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Zac “look at my abs” Efron on board, Bad Neighbours promised much more in the way of Knocked Up meets Animal House.
Called Neighbours in The States, who are far less accustomed to the delights of Holly Valance and Harold Bishop, Bad Neighbours is a ball for anyone who’s a fan of Rogen or Apatow comedies, whilst the middle-aged male will probably take much more from the film than may have been expected.
Directed by Nicholas Stoller (Five Year Engagement), the film begins with young suburbanites Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) struggling their way through parenthood and marriage. They have sex with their tops-on and Mac can’t cope with their baby, Stella, watching the not-so-eroticism. You know the sort. But their problems are only about to worsen when Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave ‘the other’ Franco) rock up next door with their fraternity, Delta-Psi, to make home.
At first the newlyweds enjoy a night of drug-infused hedonism with the frat – a particular highlight is Teddy and Mac having a Batman-off. Keaton v Bale. But soon enough a potential bromance spectacular turns sour – a little too quickly if we’re to be critical. The constant noise and partying becomes too much to handle. Mac and Kelly phone the police and Teddy doesn’t like it. Mac has broken the unbreakable pissing-sword-bond. War War III ensues. With airbags.
The frathouse scenes are far too rushed and montages speed the film up to a frantic pace at times – not in the good sense. But this is all Stoller’s way of getting to the good stuff – the set-pieces. And they are cracking. Standouts are ‘find-the-airbag’, ‘bush sculpting’ and the pièce de résistance – ‘milking the wife’, which really does bring the house down. It might well be too slap-stick for the Stewart Lee-ians out there. But you never really thought this was going to be an Aaron Sorkin language treat did you?
Efron is surprisingly excellent and provides enough smiles to make his psychopathic role less Freddie Kruger and more Dexter. The main losers in the rushed montages are the always hilarious Christopher ‘McLovin’ Mintz-Plasse and Submarine’s Craig Roberts who get criminally lost in the very large bong.
Whilst it’s hard to imagine the couple walking hand-in-hand down your provincial town High Street, Rogen and Byrne both know what they’re doing and each have their moments in the sun with smart one liners. Rogen’s description of Teddy’s arms, for example, sticks in the memory. Their portrayal of the uncertainty of young parenthood and the learn-as-you-drop-the-baby ethos is also charming and convincing.
Although it is fair to say there are some real gender issues going on here. It’s most definitely “bro’s before ho’s” (or “John Madden before Jasmine from Aladdin” to quote Teddy). Byrne and the school’s dean (Lisa Kudrow) are the only females with any character or clothes and there’s an extremely borderline rape joke, for example, that will make some wince. A problem symptomatic of Hollywood and American culture and not solely this film, in fairness. The saving grace is Bad Neighbours is constantly, and sometimes magnificently, funny.
On paper, it sounds a near on impossible gig getting every key demographic aged 15-40 laughing at the same film – but the proof is in the punning. And Bad Neighbours provides enough laughs to consider itself a success. For the Joes anyway. Rogen always guarantees likability and laughs but Efron and Franco are perfect casting and whilst some of the age gags seem tireless, the set pieces are belly-aching and that is pretty much the crux of what Stoller is trying to serve up. Subtle this may not be, but it’s damn funny.
Bad Neighbours Film Review: 3 Stars