Movie Review: Bad Neighbours

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When a college fraternity moves in next door to the home of a young couple with a new baby, tensions escalate quickly.

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Nicholas Stoller, 2014

Couple Kelly (Rose Byrne) and Mac (Seth Rogen) are having a hard time adjusting to parenthood and domestic life. While they love their daughter Stella, they miss partying with their friends and having a social life. When a fraternity moves in next door and threatens the neighbourhood peace, Mac and Kelly try to be cool and befriend frat president Teddy (Zac Efron). However, when Teddy ignores the couple’s requests to keep the noise down and Mac and Kelly break a promise in turn, things turn ugly. The situation quickly escalates into all-out war between the new neighbours.

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I hear that the second film in this franchise had a surprisingly feminist bent, so I decided I’d check the movies out. The sequel may have feminist leanings, but the first film does not. What it does have is relatively relateable if not always likeable protagonists, plenty of shirtless Zac Efron as the main antagonist, and one of the most extreme versions of a “well that escalated quickly” comedy plots I’ve ever seen. Mac and Kelly seem relatively sane only in comparison to the frat boys and their even crazier friends, played by Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo. There are some funny moments to be had there, but some of the pranks go into incredibly dangerous territory. (One word: airbags.) Like, people could easily die from the things these idiots are doing to each other; the fact that nobody really gets hurt (or if they do they walk it off) means that the stakes feel really low by the end of the film. The heaviest stakes are in the possibilities for relationships to break down, rather than in any actual danger to the characters. There’s a surprisingly effective subplot about the friendship between Zac Efron’s Teddy and his best friend, Dave Franco’s Pete; both are graduating from college, and while Pete is ready to move forward, Teddy is not. Their relationship mirrors Mac and Kelly’s more often than not.

The movie does poke some fun at conventions of the comedy genre. Rose Byrne gets just as much comedy to do as Seth Rogen, and it’s just as filthy; she also calls Mac out on his expectation that she should be the responsible one. There are a couple of smaller funny roles for women in the film, with Lisa Kudrow putting in an appearance and Carla Gallo going full unhinged as the couple’s friend. Rose Byrne and Zac Efron get the juiciest roles; Seth Rogen’s mostly doing what he normally does, but Rose Byrne gets to act in her natural accent and be genuinely funny. Zac Efron poking fun at his own image works well, and his journey through the film is the most disturbing but oddly real. There’s an odd juxtaposition between the believable character motivations and the wacky humour of the film, which only sometimes lands. The jokes around the frat boys’ behaviour are generally a lot less funny in isolation (except for one “Robert DeNiro party” jokes that had me in tears) and much funnier when posed in opposition to the suburban life that Mac and Kelly are falling into. The movie’s humour also veers into Apatow-esque territory more often than I’d like. Still, there are definitely some good laughs in the movie.

Bad Neighbours on IMDb

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