Director: Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Ali Cobrin, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Roberts and Zac Efron
Plot: When a frat house opens up next door, new parents Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) launch a war on the unstable President, Teddy (Efron).
There is something about Bad Neighbours that just hits the spot. If you just want to have a good laugh at the cinema this Friday, you could do a lot worse than Bad Neighbours.
No matter how much I loved Bad Neighbours, the clear problem was slapping me right in the face every ten minutes. I am not entirely sure who this movie is designed for. I feel like I fell into the small bracket of people who actually could appreciate every aspect of this movie. I have only just left University, so the fraternity parties seen in this movie helped me relive those crazy days, when we used to invite the entire street to our house and plough through endless crates of booze. However, these days I spend a lot of time with my friends who have kids of their own and I have spent a night looking after a restless baby far too many times for my liking. This put me in a nice position, where I understood both the new parent jokes and then the college references. I liked the side of the comedy where these new parents are struggling to hold onto their youthful days and then I thought it was clever how the writers picked up on the code of honour used by college jocks, which they twist into a passive aggressive way of picking on freshers (or freshmen in America), and getting as drunk as they want to, without consequences. However, I am pretty sure that most of the audience would either be in the student bracket or the young parent bracket, making me doubt that the movie would work as holistically as it did for me.
For example, I am pretty sure that the new parents are meant to be the good guys here. Sure, there are moments when they get so lost in this street war that they end up shining in a negative light, but when you have Zac Efron’s Teddy strutting around with a baseball bat and, at one point, threatening their new-born daughter, the audience clearly understand that the frat house are meant to be the antagonists. However, looking around the cinema, the majority of viewers were in the student demographic, giving across the impression that they much rather be spending a scene with the party mad students, rather than Rogen and Byrne sleepily trying to get their baby to bed. I cannot say I overly blame them. Far more time and direction is put into making the frat house scenes incredible. The soundtrack and editing here is amazing, really capturing the fun insanity that these parties have the potential to be, albeit with a touch of Hollywood exaggeration. The students are far too hard to hate and even when they begin harassing their neighbours, we don’t hate them as much as we should. It’s a small complaint, but I never quite got the message that the director was trying to get across.
But story aside, the most important question here is: is this movie funny? God yes. I haven’t laughed this hard and consistently at this kind of comedy in a long while. I came to the cinema expecting a Seth Rogen vehicle with the small spotlight on the new and improved Zac Efron as a Frat Boy, rather than Disney poster boy. True, it is all of those things, but the jokes were a little more mature than I predicted. I don’t want to spoil any of the set-pieces for you, because they work best with the shock value. However, I will say that they are willing to let the joke roll a little longer than most comedies would, strolling onto the right side of the gross-out factor. One scene in particular begins with Rose Byrne’s character needing to get her breasts pumped and the ensuing punch line is terrific. You think you can see where it is going and even if you guess right, you don’t realise how graphic they are going to go to get the laughs. It works so brilliantly and will be memorable for quite a while. The final punch-up between Efron and Rogen is excellent too. The movie evolves into something resembling a spy comedy with Efron coming across as a Bond villain and the protagonists planning heists on the frat house. This makes it even better than the final confrontation gives itself a small slice of action to have fun with. And fun is had. My sides were splitting as Efron launches his assault, armed with nothing but a dildo designed with his own penis.
The performances all hit the mark. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne make a great comedy duo. Rogen could be accused of playing it safe, coming across as his usual ‘adult struggling to mature’ character, but no one really wants him to be anyone else. Byrne is better, finally taking on a role that asks her to do more than be the wife on the side-lines of the action. The script makes her just as essential to the jokes as Rogen and while at times, I felt she was a little shaky when it came to delivery, all doubt for the actress is thrown away in one scene at the midway point of the film, when she instantly becomes the latest crush of every teenage boy in the audience. People who have already seen the film will know what I am on about. The frat house is a bit more hit and miss. Dave Franco is good, but we already know he can ace the particular role he is given. Christopher Mintz-Plasse didn’t even need to be in this film, as his character offers very little to the plot, other than another teen hero we can recognise in the large mass of drunken students. Zac Efron, on the other hand, steals the show. He goes all out with his character, and while it is hardly the best performance I have seen this year, because it is Zac Efron, the same guy who was hated for being the poster boy of High School Musical a while back, it deserves praise. He is incredible and despite coming across as slightly too nasty nearer the end of the film, he does have a touching moment with Dave Franco that will warm the heart.
One last problem I had with the movie: when the funny climax is over, Stoller has no idea how to actually end this film. The resolution of Rogen’s and Byrne’s problems is a little lame. Stoller suggests in his script that they are being so aggressive on the frat house, because they are scared about losing their youthful years, clinging onto the silly stuff they did as young people. We could argue that the frat house ‘moving into their territory’ is a metaphor about the two leads being pushed out of their own lives. That could be me reading too much into a comedy, but I have a feeling that Stoller does intend for this message to come across. However, to resolve this inner conflict, he just has Rogen and Byrne have a final scene where they turn to each other and just list all of the things they like doing as adults. Sweet, yes, but it feels cheap that the main crux of their character development is solved with the flick of a switch. A slightly messy finish for what was looking at being a pretty decent comedy.
Final Verdict: Much better than I thought it would be, Bad Neighbours will have you laughing throughout with a stellar appearance from Zac Efron.