Bad Neighbours (aka Neighbors) great comedic ensemble including Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron and Dave Franco paints an absurdist portrait of that sweet spot between moving on from the non-stop partying existence and ‘serious’ adulthood.
Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) are new parents adjusting to suburban life when President Teddy (Efron) and Vice President Pete (Franco) and their frat-house move in next door. What begins as tolerance for ‘cool’ points quickly devolves into a war for a return to peace and quiet.
Screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien get the boredom of new, early 30s parenthood that’s yearning for wild abandon and the allure for life with no responsibilities in such close proximity to their newly suburban existence. While directors like Judd Apatow or Kevin Smith balance tonal shifts from the outlandish to little peeks into the human condition seamlessly, Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five Year Engagement) crunches gears.
In the moments that it holds true to the downright silly, Bad Neighbours is at its very best. For the Frat House it’s making dildo models of their junk as a way to raise money, having (bad) Robert DeNiro themed dress up parties or somehow all these eclectic weird dudes being ridiculously caring and supportive. While for new parents Mac and Kelly it’s their insane friends joining in on the scheming and the never spontaneous ‘spontaneous’ love making. When Stoller tries to temper that crazy with any kind of sincerity it undermines all things that work. It’s so tonally weird to pair pauses to reflect on pointless pursuits of college life and then break and enter to lay traps in and around a toddler.
Seth Rogen’s stoner everyman is merely a foil for the mockery of Zac Efron’s male bimbo and frat President. Rogen’s inferiority and attempts to get back to cool play perfectly against the loveable stupidity of Efron’s Teddy. Their poolside drunk bonding sessions over who their ‘Batman’ is with duelling Michael Keaton and Christian Bale impressions reduced me to a puddle. Dave Franco continues provide wonderful support for his leading counterparts whether it’s his character Pete proclaiming love for his frat brother teddy in the street or ‘pitching a tent’ as a party trick, there’s an enthusiasm to his abandon.
The star of the entire film is Rose Byrne. It’s both jarring and refreshing to hear her play a character that’s Australian, especially when her filthy mouth and barrage of ‘fucks’ clang like crowbars against the familiar tin of her American counterparts. The honesty, the fragility, the flagrant manipulation — there’s a wild girl beneath her cute supportive exterior.
Bad Neighbours is worth your time for Byrne’s potty mouth, Rogen’s hairy back and watching Franco and Efron profess their (brotherly) love for each other.