“The various ad-libbed scenes that inevitably descend into incoherent screaming mean that the laugh count does not meet expectations.”
by Matthew Allen
Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco
Director(s): Nicholas Stoller
Screenwriter(s): Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien
Running Time: 97 minutes
Sooner or later, we all wake up to the realisation that, where we once saw ourselves as Spongebob: the personification of carefree youth, we now sympathise with the long-suffering and perpetually cynical Squidward. It is the natural cycle of life and if it hasn’t happened to you yet then it is only a matter of time. So next time you catch yourself bemoaning the neighbours that have had the audacity to extend their barbeque into the ungodly hours of 11.30pm, comfort yourself with the knowledge that you are not alone and accept the sad fact that we all become the thing we hate. And with that we have the pivotal theme of frat comedy, Bad Neighbours.
When a fraternity move into the house next door, an increasingly middle-aged couple (Rogen and Byrne) find themselves at odds with this generation’s answer to Animal House.
Rogen and Franco joints tend to be relatively hit and miss (see Pineapple Express and This is the End respectively), however, this time it is not James that Seth has partnered up with but rather his lesser brother Dave who has been carving out a niche for himself since he appeared as the jockish med-student in the final season of hospital comedy Scrubs.
No points for guessing which side of the fence Dave resides in this generationally designated face-off. However, the leader of the Frat pack in this case is Zac Efron of High School Musical fame. Presumably in an attempt to add some strings to his bow, Efron actually performs quite well as the big man on campus with a Peter Pan complex and manages to inspire affection, contempt and eventually sympathy in a character that could have easily been nothing more than a pitiless lout.
The relationship between Efron’s party animal and Rogen’s recent father is contextualised by the black mirror that they hold up to each other. At first the two actually share something of a bromance after Rogen and his wife initially join in the shroom addled festivities of their new neighbours but eventually Rogen is made to see himself as the middle-aged party pooper he has become while Efron almost resents his nemesis for proving that age inevitably catches up to even the most hardcore wreckheads.
By hinging the conflict on the decay of a once budding friendship, the film maintains its credibility as the retaliations become more and more outrageous. Typically however, these have all been spoiled in the trailer which deflates the impact considerably. This coupled with the various ad-libbed scenes that inevitably descend into incoherent screaming, mean that the laugh count does not meet expectations.
A decent effort that manages to swerve the trappings of its premise and deliver an authentic portrayal of our innate resistance to looming adulthood. But despite a surprisingly deep dynamic between the leads, Bad Neighbours falls a little short in the gag department.