Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
Bad Neighbours – or simply Neighbours as it is known outside of Ireland, the UK and Australia – is a chaotic comedy that sees a college fraternity take up residence next door to a young married couple with a new baby. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne portray the tormented new parents, while Zac Efron and Dave Franco lead the gang of college kids gone wild.
As you may expect from a movie featuring Seth Rogen facing off against a frat house, chaos and ridiculousness ensue. Overall Bad Neighbours manages to be a consistently entertaining hour and a half of comedic fun. Unfortunately, it isn’t made up of wall to wall laugh out loud moments and if you’re going in expecting the next Superbad or Pineapple Express, you’ll probably be disappointed. But solid performances by the movie’s lead actors means that there is enough hilarity and funny moments to maintain the pace from start to finish.
As the movie begins, Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen and Byrne) are determined to prove that becoming parents hasn’t sapped the last of their youth out of them. So while they are apprehensive when a fraternity moves into the house next door, they initially awkwardly attempt to bond with its president, Teddy Sanders (Efron). Teddy presents himself as a nice and understanding guy and all seems well at first, but it’s not long until the neighbouring houses have declared all out war on each other.
Without spoiling the specifics of the gags, highlights include Mac attempting to befriend Teddy at a frat party; baby Stella finding an item in the garden that no infant should come into contact with; a series of painful encounters with airbags; a ridiculous final face off between the neighbours; and Mac and Teddy doing some product placement for Abercrombie and Fitch.
Rogen brings his usual blend of slapstick humour and sharp ad-libbing to the table and manages to succeed for the most part in keeping you smiling whenever he’s on screen. It’s not his greatest performance ever, but he sails through smoothly enough on his every man charm and likability. He and Rose Byrne work perfectly together and manage to bounce off each other seamlessly from start to finish.
Setting aside one gross out sequence involving breast milk which falls on the wrong side of disgusting in its attempt to be funny, Byrne’s character is just as charming and funny as Rogen’s throughout the film. The two of them maintain perfect chemistry with each other and, despite the odd hiccup here and there, you believe that they are good parents who are meant to be with each other and who are worthy of rooting for.
It’s hard not to sympathise with Mac and Kelly, given the situation. In fact, I think you’d still want them to win out against their wild neighbours even if a baby wasn’t involved. Let’s face it, who among us would want to live beside a crowd of rowdy party animals who scream, shout and blast loud music out all night, every night?
Zac Efron’s Teddy Sanders is the clear antagonist of the piece and Efron puts in an admirable performance in the role. He certainly seems determined to shed his family friendly Disney reputation and I say good for him. At times, it seems a bit inconsistent as how the writers want us to feel towards the character. There are moments where he’s portrayed as sympathetic but they’re often over-shadowed by the scale of his selfishness and sometimes downright villainous actions.
In general though, I think Teddy is supposed to be represented as an immature college senior who isn’t necessarily a bad guy, he’s just having trouble facing up to the fact that real life is beckoning and he can’t stay in college forever. I feel like he was supposed to be similar to Van Wilder, although he doesn’t manage to be quite as likable. Still though, Teddy is not completely irredeemable and Efron does well in the role.
Teddy’s right hand man is the fraternal vice-president, Pete, played by Dave Franco. While it may be an unfair comparison, Franco hasn’t quite yet developed the effortless on screen charisma of his older, more established sibling. Still though, I have to give him credit here, he does generate quite a few laughs. Highlights of his character include some incredibly impressive Robert De Niro impressions and a great freestyling session of coming up with alternative terms for “bros before hoes” with Efron.
Lisa Kudrow plays a small but hilarious role as the college dean in the proceedings as well. Her part might amount to little more than an extended cameo, but she pretty much owns every scene in which she appears. Another familiar face from Hollywood that appears is that of Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Strangely enough, while he does feature fairly prominently, he plays little more than a peripheral character. Were it not for his recognisability, he could really be labelled as nothing but a background extra. Jerrod Carmichael also plays a small role as another member of the frat and shines in some genuinely hilarious moments.
Two characters that I found to be annoying however, were Mac and Kelly’s friends and partners in arms, Jimmy and Paula. Unfortunately they both fell just short of being funny. The material was there but there was something about its execution that lacked the effortlessness of the rest of the cast. Jimmy may have benefited more from being played by someone such as Bill Hader or Craig Robinson.
I think the best part of watching the principal cast interact with each other though is that they were clearly having a great time making this movie and that translates into the finished product well enough that you feel the fun as a viewer. I was hoping for more frequent laugh out loud moments than the movie delivered, but what it did deliver was enough to prevent it from falling flat.
Bad Neighbours is an easy watch that kept me entertained and grinning for the extent of its run time. It accomplishes its goal of being a lighthearted and fun summer comedy, thanks in no small part to the performances of its leads, Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Zac Efron. I would certainly recommend checking it out, especially if you’re a fan of Rogen’s usual cinematic shenanigans.
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