Monday, 26 May 2014

Bad Neighbours (2014)

Bad Neigbours (2014)
Directed by Nicholas Stoller; Starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne

Rating: 2/5

This film was simply called Neighbors in the US, but was renamed Bad Neighbours in the English speaking commonwealth to avoid confusion with the popular Australian soap of the same name. The international title’s more on the money. The neighbours are bad, and the movie is bad.

It’s not atrocious, there are a couple of laughs, but there are only a couple, and that’s hardly enough to justify forcing yourself through all the dildo, condom and erection-based humour the movie throws at you. We know sexual comedy can be done well – just look at the American Pie series, which remained consistently well written and hilarious over four films and for over ten years – so what’s going wrong here?

The basic premise is that of a young family (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) who are unlucky enough to have a college fraternity (led by Zac Efron and Dave Franco) move in next door. The frat boys want to party all night, and the couple want them to keep the noise down so they, and their daughter, can sleep.

It’s a decent enough if simple premise, further developed by the family’s desperate attempts to remain ‘cool’ and down with the kids, even attending a few of the frat parties, and the frat boys legitimate attempts to build bridges, even if they refuse to stop partying.

Once the family call in the cops with a noise complaint, all bets are off, and what ensues is a chronicles of steadily escalating one-upmanship which makes bitter enemies out of both parties. What’s slightly jarring is that there are plenty of occasions when there is a genuine chance to bury the hatchet, but both sides often chose the pettier, and more destructive option. We’re supposed to go along with it all; although it’s not clear which side we’re supposed to take (it could depend on your own generation), rendering the conflict inconsequential.

This is part of the deconstruction the film is attempting of fraternities in general: that they are essentially a bunch of overgrown children with little to no maturity – and this extends to the characters played by Rogen and Byrne. Ultimately, it all feels a little too despicable, and alienates all the characters from the audience.

The film also brings the relatively dated atmosphere of Animal House (1978) into the 21st Century, making the fraternity setting contemporarily relevant and showing its effect on the wider community. If you think that means more drugs, more drink and more sex, then you’d be half-right, but there was plenty of that in Animal House to begin with. Here, it essentially translates to more neon, and to an extent, more fireworks.

While it’s very much a film of the moment, there are a number of currently chuckle worthy references which will severely date the film in years to come. Of some note is Lisa Kudrow’s brief appearance as a truly useless college dean. 

I went to see this movie for some comedy and to keep my head in the modern world. It’s just shy of okay, but if I wanted something that fit that glove, I should have stayed at home and continued watching the cheesy vampire and zombie movies I’ve been watching for the past couple of weeks. What is a relief is that it’s not too long. That’s not because I was desperate for it to end, but because so many films these days simply don’t know when to rein it in. This restraint is commendable.

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