Director: Nicholas Stoller
Writers: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien
Stars: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco
Release date: May 9th, 2014
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Running time: 97 minutes
Best part: Efron’s charisma.
Worst part: Several irritating supporting characters.
Director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) has, without a doubt, become one of Hollywood’s most successful and bewitching talents. His efforts, raking in major profits and alluring new performers simultaneously, fit a certain formula that modern audiences are infatuated with. His comedies, featuring gross out gags and a hint of sensitivity, reach multiple crowds whilst providing blood, sweat, tears, and fits of laughter. I’m stating this because his new feature, Bad Neighbours, breaks the mould by being more substantial than his previous works.
Congratulations are in order for this dexterous filmmaker. Many filmmakers, no matter what their reputations may suggest, descend after their first or second efforts. With comedy being a tough nut to crack (no euphemism intended, I swear), Stoller bounces back from The Five Year Engagement to deliver a smart, electrifying, and consistent comedy. Obviously, neighbourhood feuds are commonplace. Undoubtedly, most of us have come across loud, obnoxious, or even dumbstruck citizens living next door. Therefore, to discuss this issue, Stoller’s latest comedy throws fraternities, major pranks, and legal conundrums at its charming lead characters. Bad Neighbours looks on in horror as a naïve couple, Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), move into their quaint, suburban home after birthing their lovely child Stella. Watching over the neighbouring houses, the couple’s underlying problems steadily rise to the surface. Sadly, this couple’s pressing situation gets worse when a fraternity moves in next door. The frat house’s inhabitants, led by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), seek to raise the roof off their comfortable new abode. Inevitably, the frat’s momentous parties throw Mac and Kelly for a loop. Before long, the claws come out and the battle for the neighbourhood begins.
This premise, though ripe with brash jokes and valuable life lessons, does seem predictable and convenient. What kind of Home Owners Association or council group would allow a fraternity to move into a suburban neighbourhood? Confidently, the movie itself never lingers on this issue. Thankfully, thanks to its inherent charm and over-the-top comedic moments, the audience is also able to overlook this problem. From the opening scene, in which Mac and Kelly struggle to have sex in every room with their child watching on, the movie establishes a light-hearted tone and ambitious sense of humour. Despite the tiresome premise, the feud is brushed over by montages and shocking gags. Aware of its own conventional ideas, the movie’s glee-filled surprises and intelligent revelations lend wisdom to this otherwise immature farce. The battle, kick-started by an irritating police officer, allows our misfortunate characters to let loose upon the neighbourhood. Gracefully, the movie achieves a charming glow and memorable moments early on in the first half. Despite the contrived situations and perplexing motivations, the plot, unlike with several of Judd Apatow’s efforts, is never tied down by dour characters or a bloated Length. In fact, like Efron’s character, Bad Neighbours is toned, witty, and ever so slightly unhinged.
“We’re throwing a Robert De Niro party. It should be pretty loud.” (Teddy (Zac Efron), Bad Neighbours).
Inevitably, Bad Neighbours, during the kooky and delectable second half, leans on its impatient characters for guidance. Once the major conflicts kick in, the story takes a break to reflect upon each character’s burgeoning flaws. Thanks to this adult/teen conflict, Mac and Kelly look down upon the frat members and, more importantly, themselves. With Mac lurching back into his party-fuelled roots, their relationship becomes tarnished and battered by the neighbouring party-hounds. More importantly, maturity is this party’s overarching theme. Dressing down Efron and Franco’s loudmouth characters, the second half occasionally delves into their touching bromance. Providing the recommended hangover cure for its own party sequences, Bad Neighbours is surprisingly good for the soul. However, the party sequences, amplified to an insatiable degree in the second half, are highlights in this hysterical and unconscionable farce. The fistfight-and-neon-light-fuelled finale showcases several enjoyable gags and the lead actors’ immense chemistry. Relying on familiar ticks, Rogen’s likeable persona and bubbly sense of humour powers this slapstick-laden comedy. Elevating the obvious weed, dick, and fart jokes, Rogen is an enjoyable and empathetic screen presence. Enthusiastically, Efron turns his Brad Pitt-level charisma up to 11. As the frat’s energy-and-denial-choked leader, Efron’s cheerful performance and impressive physique will draw viewers in. In addition, Byrne cements herself as an intricate and expressive comedic force as the troubled housewife.
Dodging Apatow’s irritating and incessant tropes, Stoller’s latest effort, like Efron’s character, stands head-and-shoulders above everything else. With Rogen, Byrne, and Efron carrying this conventional and dodgy premise, the comedic moments and wise speeches lend fits of intelligence to this overwhelming and manic gross-out comedy.