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Bad Neighbours – Review
May 2, 2014
Bad Neighbours comes to us as the new Seth Rogen comedy, directed by Nicholas Stoller, long-term Judd Apatow collaborator and whose credits include Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him To The Greek. Like those, there are many films starring the usual gang of US comedy actors these days popping out once a month, most of them just passing you by. But don’t let this one fool you. Bad Neighbours is much more than the college frat comedy with Seth Rogen mixed in that its posters portray – it’s genuinely laugh out loud and one of the funniest releases of the year so far.
When young parents Mac and Kelly Radner, played by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, move into a new neighbourhood, with their newborn baby, the films starts out as the regular young couple struggling with the reality of adulthood and family life. They are trying to be ‘cool’ in the face of changing diapers, mortgages, and moving into suburbia – a situation that makes the film funny from the outset, when the young parents try and fail miserably with their attempt to have sex somewhere, just anywhere, outside of their own bed.
Then, Zac Efron, Dave Franco and their fraternity rock up shop next door, and establish a frat house for Delta Psi, and it soon unravels into a one-upmanship competition in pranks between the debauched slackers and the young parents.
Brilliant comic timing, better insight than, say, frat-house flicks like Old School and even Animal House, and a far better shot picture than it really needs to be. Also, Rogen seems to have matured into the charming, stoner, thirtysomething role quite nicely and gets better at it in each gag. Efron is possibly the most interesting turn of an actor in this film, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he took off from this into more comedy roles in the future – it seems a natural fit. And it would be shame to omit Rose Byrne from the credits – she steals the scenes, playing a character with more meat to her than in her previous comedy outings.
There are some knocks along the way. Throwing out any sort of pop culture references, like just an imitation of Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents, is a seemingly lazy way to get a laugh. Also, jokes about sexual violence are always shaky ground and despite spurring laughs in this preview screening, it may not land so well in other showings. Same goes for a joke concerning an infant HIV gag, and one that begins to stray into gender politics before being rescued by a Kevin James reference joke. On the other end of the scale, there’s also the pandering to the audience that may not go for the Seth Rogen gross-out party humour with the camera twitching to focus on the newborn baby for the sake of it simply being a cute newborn baby (cue audience audible swoons).
There are also plot lines that seemingly disappear halfway through the films – but that’s forgotten about by the laughs. This might make it seem a difficult balancing act, but that would mask what the film really does well. It’s not the most narratively coherent film, nor is it very complex, and if you’re not laughing you may ask, well, when was that character introduced, and why are those two guys now fighting with dildos. But you won’t be, because jokes fly at a dart board and there are hits and misses but when it hits the board it hits the bullseye, and that’s what it really is in the end – Bad Neighbours is messy, but that’s precisely why it’s chaotically funny.
Bad Neighbours is out in UK cinemas on May 2nd