Dir: Nicholas Stoller
Cert: 15 • US: 97 min • Universal Pictures • May 3, 2014
Nick Smith reviews
In the most inappropriate opening scene since Bridesmaids, Bad Neighbours aims to have its audience cringing right from the outset, with Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) en flagrante in the worst possible taste. This is the fourth film from director Nicholas Stoller, the man behind Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Five Year Engagement, and promises much with its stellar cast. It’s fair to say that in no way does he disappoint.
Just as Mac and Kelly are settling into their new lives as parents in suburbia, and coming to terms with the loss of their partying days, their new-found artificial serenity is threatened by the arrival of a fraternity house next door, led by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (David Franco). At first, the temptation is for Mac and Kelly to get down with the kids and relive some of their lost youth, but to emphasize the importance of keeping the noise down to the young frats. As the partying and antics become unbearable, local police officer Watkins is called and, in a truly star turn from comedian Hannibal Buress, the Radners soon become the parents that have cried wolf and realise they will have to become vigilantes of sorts to drive out their dreadful neighbours.
What unfolds is a veritably hilarious tit for tat, fogeys vs. youths tale of retribution, and it’s particularly amusing to watch the random retaliation ideas dawn slowly on the protagonists’ and antagonists’ faces. Some truly uproarious and inventive set pieces ensue – one involving an air bag will leave you prodding every seat before sitting on it. Another involving dildo moulding kits forms a perfectly gross yet ingenious way to earn money for the frats.
The leads are cast perfectly. Rose Byrne threatens to steal the show with her wonderfully bipolar performance, being docile, bored new mother one minute and apoplectic, vengeful guardian the next. Seth Rogen is effortlessly funny and wonderfully self-effacing, capitalising on each of his past comic turns and injecting some emotional honesty. Zac Efron is the real revelation here, however, casting aside his High School Musical roots with magnificent aplomb, delivering an incredibly evil performance as a belligerent fraternity leader. His character’s moral compass spikes at absolute zero in every wicked, vindictive twist and turn in his efforts to infuriate the Radners.
There are some superb supporting performances from Lisa Kudrow (the malevolent and unsympathetic dean of the frat’s college) and the aforementioned Buress.
What sets this gross-out comedy apart from the glut of its peers, is the truly inventive and unique set pieces and the sheer volume of them. There are so many laugh-out-loud and cringeworthy moments – and baby Stella adds an abundance of cuteness to the proceedings.
In an ending that could easily have been cliché-ridden, Seth Rogen proves his metal yet again as he and Efron double up for one last hilarious parting shot. Bad Neighbours is deliciously evil and utterly hilarious, and features some of the most inventive, wicked and outrageous comedy set pieces in cinema.