Bad Neighbours (2014)

Bad Neighbours

Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and his wife Kelly (Rose Byrne) are looking to begin a new life as parents. Unfortunately, this means spending less time with best friends Jimmy Faldt (Ike Barinholtz) and Paula (Carla Gallo) in order to focus on the needs of their new-born daughter Stella. To begin with, Mac and Kelly aren’t particularly concerned when infamous fraternity Delta Psi move in next door, as they see themselves as cool parents still capable of having a good time, but when the antics of Teddy (Zac Efron), Pete (Dave Franco), Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Assjuice (Craig Roberts) begin to threaten their suburban bliss they find themselves calling the police to complain. This breaks a pact they had made with Teddy, and soon it’s all-out war as the neighbours fight for their respective family homes.

There was a certain level of buzz around Bad Neighbours even before it opened to big box office and positive reviews in the US, facilitated by its strong cast and run of funny trailers. Here was a movie that borrowed from a number of different comedy sub-genres: its cast was sourced from films as diverse as Superbad, Bridesmaids and Submarine, it shared a director with Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him To The Greek, and — in a welcome change from the usual sex comedies and spoof movies — was the first frat-comedy to come along since Monsters University. (Nobody saw 21 & Over, so it doesn’t count.) By the usually low standards of the comedy genre it felt almost fresh and original.

Beneath the gross-out gags (Stella mistakes a condom for a balloon) and farcical violence (there’s a running joke involving stolen airbags) there is an underlying melancholy to Bad Neighbours which is incredibly endearing. It’s a film about growing up, accepting that your adolescence is over and moving on with your life. Mac and Kelly are ready to do this at the beginning of the movie, only to be temporarily tempted back to the party when a mob of students move in next door. They’re torn between wanting to seem cool and relevant, and wanting to get a good night’s sleep ahead of another day of bread-winning and breast-feeding; it’s a dilemma that most people will be able to sympathise with. Teddy, however, needs a little more convincing, though there are signs even among Delta Psi that adulthood is on the horizon.

The ensemble get some big laughs out of the material, and though the set pieces delight it’s the smaller moments that make the biggest impression. Nicholas Stoller knows how to stage a party, and you can completely understand why Mac and Kelly are tempted in, but he also knows the attraction of a quiet night in front of the TV. Where the film falters is in its balance of scripted jokes and improvised comedy; as charming as the interactions between characters are (particularly in the case of Rogen and Byrne) there comes a point when you realise that you’ve been smiling rather than laughing. A number of the set-pieces seem wasted, and you wonder whether a tighter script and more polished performances might have gotten to the heart of the scene where ad-libbing has only really scratched the surface. After all, some of the cast are better at it than others, and Efron — so funny in 17 Again and Liberal Arts — struggles most of all.

Nevertheless, Bad Neighbours is a funny, likeable and surprisingly touching piece of work. It’s hit and miss at times (Lisa Kudrow is squandered as the college dean) but ultimately pulls it all together for an almost note-perfect finale. The credits are great, too.

3-Stars

 

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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