Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz- Plasse
With a newborn baby (Elise Vargas, Zoey Vargas), young married couple Mac (Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Byrne) settle down to a quiet life in suburbia, until they discover their new neighbours are a college fraternity. At first, things go well but when Mac calls the police on the partying frat boys, a feud begins.
At first glance, Bad Neighbours (known as Neighbors in the States) is not too promising. The film instantly conjours up comparisons with the mass of low-brow and unfunny teen comedies that have been thrown out over the years. Well, Bad Neighbours is occasionally low brow…and it’s somewhat funny…what makes is stand out is that it is, in its own subtle way, actually rather smart and inventive.
First of all, there is Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne in the lead roles. Whilst many films of this ilk would’ve opted for the older stars, the use of younger “hipper” leads gives some common ground and helps build a bridge between their domestic lives and the frat house next door. Both Rogen and Byrne fill their roles of slightly cool but slightly square fairly well. Zac Efron leads the fraternity bunch in a role that showcases Efron’s doubtless charisma, though his performance has some tendencies to wander off into strange directions, not helped by a personality change towards the final act but in his more cordial moments, he really aids the picture.
That being said, the supporting cast are generally hit-and-miss. Whilst Hannibal Buress is fine as the local police officer who makes an occasional appearance and it’s nice to see Lisa Kudrow again (as the Dean of the local college), Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo, whilst turning in okay performances seem largely superfluous to the plot whilst Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s role as one of the frat boys seems more of an excuse to stick him in the movie rather than have any real justification.
Occasionally, the comedy does cross the line from daring to just plain crass. A sequence where the fraternity make moulds of…let’s just say a certain part of their anatomy isn’t up to standard and one gag involving a rather troublesome breast feeding episode is a complete miss as humour and just ends up as slightly disturbing. Still, all the way throughout, the film is skilfully pieced together with panache in how interactions between characters and movement to plot points is pieced together and whilst this is by no means an innovative work of refined cinema, it is perhaps a little better than most of its breed.