Film Review: Bad Neighbours (USA, 2014)

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Sure, some may find it easy to dismiss Bad Neighbours as just another comedy driven by Seth Rogen’s awkward humour – nothing we haven’t seen before. However, what really makes this film work – and possibly places it as one of the finest comedies of the past few years – is the on-screen chemistry Rogen shares with Australia’s talented Rose Byrne and heartthrob Zac Efron, both of whom hold just as much weight as Rogen, giving off just as much of that adorably awkward humour, and absolutely nailing it in the process.

Between a few misplaced and uninspired gags addressing everything from breast feeding to Robert De Niro, the majority of Bad Neighbours plays as an incredibly fun, mindless neighbourhood-war film as newlyweds Mac and Kelly Ragner (Rogen and Byrne) slowly get into a love-hate relationship with a frat party; a frat party who has moved in nextdoor, in a quiet residential street.

Trying to retain their youth is hard enough, so Mac and Kelly’s collective stress remains at an all time high throughout the movie, as Rogen/Byrne play the neurotic couple quite well. It may seem like Seth Rogen is a one-dimensional actor at times, but the life he brings out of his support cast always saves his films from becoming too narrow.

Teddy (Efron) has enough of that loveable-idiot appeal to make the satire of frat life somewhat endearing, and aside from the ridiculous, over-the-top caricatures, there’s a general feeling of joy every time they throw one of their epic ragers and send the Ragner family into a spiral of petulance and childish revenge.

It’s Rose Byrne who steals most of the thunder in this film, proving a natural at Rogen’s brand of ridiculously awkward comedy, throwing curveballs at Efron when her on-screen ex-stoner husband doesn’t have the balls too. The chemistry between Rogen and Efron also shines here, especially with Rogen’s self-deprecating one-liners about Efron’s boyish charm.

With the Radners attempting to get the party boys evicted by going through a hilarious cameo by Lisa Kudro, and the frat boys (which includes a very capable performance Dave Franco) use their youthful creativity to terrorise their frenemies. It’s a recipe that sounds terribly overdone on paper, but works with charm and consistently side-splitting moments of hilarity.

It’s a shame the majority of this movie plays into the usual tropes of gross-out adult comedy – leaving wounds open for critics to jump all over and ignore the genuine fun of it all – but Bad Neighbours has enough creativity here to make it stand apart and edge towards the better Seth Rogen comedies like Knocked Up and Pineapple Express.

Drawing on elements reminiscent of Project X and Old School, the film focuses heavily on the drug-fueled, over-the-top chaos of having a frat party central to the plot, but the key here is the performance from the three key characters – especially Byrne – which seems like a natural trio of comedic chemistry.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Bad Neighbours is screening nationally in cinemas now