Film Review: 'Bad Neighbours'
Opened: 9 May 2014 (US)
Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Producers: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver
Given that the marketing for Bad Neighbours has almost exclusively revolved around shots of Zac Efron’s emaciated audience baiting musculature, one might be forgiven for not expecting the latest offering from Director Nicholas Stoller to make it into the nominations in the intelligent-comedy category. Not only would you be forgiven, you would indeed be correct. Though packed full of laughs, this grinding grudge match flick is simply the bastard offspring of loftier efforts such as Bridesmaids, The Hangover and Meet the Parents (which it also directly references). Unlike these predecessors this whole affair is merely a vehicle for all involved to tell a few gags, initiate some girl on girl action and have a baby lick a condom (don’t look at me, I’m just the messenger!).
Obviously with the on screen talent involved the movie contains some great comedy moments and there is slapstick abound, Seth Rogen putting in a very physical clowning performance as one part of Suburban family Mac and Kelly Radner, the latter effortlessly hammed up by the gorgeous and adorable Rose Byrne. If you have not caught a trailer yet, which contains almost the whole the wafer thin plot; a college fraternity moves in next to a quiet (only slightly over the hill) suburban family, the aforementioned and totally hapless Radners. Like many young parents they are concerned about their self image and not willing to admit their crazy days are behind them, while nonetheless conflicted about needing to be good parents to their baby daughter, Stella. The Radners and fraternity Gamma Psi quickly fall out over noise and police intervention, causing an ever escalating war of attrition to breakout.
The formula is a tried and tested one. Each side hatches a new plan to strike back or survive the latest manoeuvre by the other, eventually leading to some extreme sequences in the second half. While I for one am thrilled to see physical comedy done so well, the actual scripted humour is lacking and the film is barely held together by any substance, resembling a string of SNL sketches of varying degrees of quality. A struggling lack of consistency in the comedy, and with little else to connect to, leaves viewers with a comfortable (when not cringing at the Radners attempts to cool) but sadly unremarkable jock vs nerd jaunt. Sadly all this is not so surprising given the Director’s previous record; Stoller has a rather dreary and forgettable filmography of lacklustre comedies which is only brought to life twice, and each time by The Muppets! Very telling…
The real winner of the movie has to be Zac Efron who, although he spends it corpsing around topless like a foreign aid commercial for protein shakes, here continues to widen his range and prove that he is more than his High School Musical roots. Regularly producing a balanced dry delivery as frat house president Teddy, with some excellent support from fellow frat brothers Scoonie and Pete (played by comedy gold miners Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Dave Franco), there can be not doubt that this is another sure step for Efron in forging a brilliant movie career.
Perfectly watchable and pulling no punches Bad Neighbours is by no means a bad movie but it fails to make the grade with inconsistent ebbs and flows, missing the sublime but occasionally hitting the ridiculous. Enjoyable, but with no defining stand out moments it is sadly a movie which is less than its parts.
Theatrical Trailer: Bad Neighbours