Bad Neighbours (Nicholas Stoller, 2014)
If you have a problem with dick jokes, the notion of a baby eating a condom, seeing Seth Rogen have sex, or a sequence where a lactating woman has to be ‘milked’, then maybe think twice before watching Bad Neighbours. It’s pretty crass, but it’s also pretty hilarious in parts. And you get to see Zac Efron topless and the man is RIPPED. That was almost worth the price of admission alone. If hot men aren’t your thing, there is also possibly the cutest baby in the world in this film.
Bad Neighbours centres on the rivalry between new parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), and the fraternity that moves in next door headed by pretty boy, Teddy (Zac Efron). It seems like every other scene in Bad Neighbours is another frat party, but it appears to be aimed at a slightly older audience than that would suggest. Much of the humour is reminiscent of films such as the American Pie franchise and similar ilk, but I wouldn’t call it a teen movie. The protagonists are in their early 30s, trying to move away from the sorts of behaviours that characterise the younger generation such as partying and boozing. In that respect I probably found the characters much more relatable than anyone in their late teens/early twenties would. In order to enjoy this film though, you need to be willing to engage your immature side. At the risk of sounding ageist, I would suggest that no one over the age of 40 bother with viewing this film as you may be well and truly past appreciating the gags on offer here.
I’ve found director Nicholas Stoller’s previous films absolutely hilarious. These include Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Get Him to the Greek (2010) and my favourite, The Five Year Engagement (2012). Bad Neighbours wasn’t quite up to par, and I’m putting this down to the writing team. Whereas the former were written by either Stoller himself, Jason Segel, or both, Bad Neighbours’ screenplay is by newcomers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien. There were some decent one-liners but then it’s difficult to tell if most of that was Seth Rogen ad-libbing. He is a cracker and lifted this film above what it would have been with almost anyone else in the role, with the possible exception of Jason Segel (I love that guy).
Rose Byrne continues to demonstrate that she can do comedy and do it well – it’s refreshing to see someone who always seems so prim and proper do something silly and a bit crass. It was good to see Kelly as an equal participant in the couple’s revenge, and not relegated to the clichéd role of nagging wife. I’d say this is a credit to the writers, however the original script bypassed women altogether, with Seth Rogen’s character originally living with his friends. It was in fact Seth Rogen’s real life wife that suggested the change – but only because she thought a group of men wouldn’t care as much about bringing down their loud neighbours. Hence, wife and baby were inserted. And I for one am glad about that. How many bro movies do we need, exactly? It’s been done. Over and over again.
Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (a.k.a. McLovin) and Jerrod Carmichael make up the leaders of the frat. Efron and Franco are the clear talents, with Franco’s Robert De Niro impression one of the best moments in the film. Efron is great. Of course, due to starting off as a Disney heartthrob in the High School Musical franchise he routinely gets written off as just a pretty face, but he’s proved himself as a genuine star in Hairspray (Adam Shankman, 2007) and the deadly serious The Paperboy (Lee Daniels, 2012). He’s got great comic timing and to be honest, the pretty face doesn’t hurt. And the pretty body. My god, he was a treasure to behold in those topless scenes.
But by far the most beautiful additions to the cast were twins Elise and Zoey Vargas as baby Stella. Not that she is anywhere near a realistic baby – she was spotless for the entire film and I don’t think she cried once. Which made the whole “oh our baby is going to be woken up by these louts” thing seem like not such a big deal after all. It’s strange to think that babies are forced into acting, and have agents, and résumés. And that they don’t even play their own sex half the time – Elise and Zoey play ‘Trevor’ in the upcoming Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Miguel Arteta, 2014). What will become of these tiny people? Divas at age 3? Washed up by age 5? They won’t even remember their careers! And I bet they will never be as attractive as they are now, because I don’t think that is humanly possible. She/they were so cute I could have DIED. It almost makes me want to have a baby. But one that doesn’t cry and remains spotless at all times. Only in the movies…
Maybe it says something that the best part was the baby (but seriously, she was ADORABLE). It had its fair share of laughs, a good cast, and one hot Zac Efron. It was better than a lot of the crap comedies that are frequently churned out (when’s the last time Adam Sandler did something good? 2004?) but it wasn’t one of the best. It’s not all dick jokes and physical comedy, but if you can’t stand either, you’re probably better sitting this one out. Although you will miss one cutie patootie and one hot one too.