If there’s one thing I learned from a young Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, it’s that everybody needs good neighbours. But as the title of the latest bit of adult buffoonery from director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshal, Get Him To the Greek) implies, that’s not always the case. The titular Bad Neighbours in this regard being a pair of used-to-be-not-so-mild-mannered new parents Mac and Kelly, played by human muppet Seth Rogen and a game, scene stealing Rose Byrne, and the varsity frat house which opens up next door, shattering the boring but pleasant peace.

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Led by Zac Efron’s anatomically correct real-life action figure Teddy and Dave Franco’s snarky but deceptively smart Pete, the bacchanalian rabble-rousers  live only for drunken debauchery, and while initially Mac and Kelly appreciate the youngsters next door as an opportunity to regain some of the partying spark they’ve lost, it isn’t long before the baby monitor and responsible adulthood comes a-calling. And when a confrontation between the two parties about keeping the noise levels down goes the wrong way, it sets off a back and forth, escalating battle of revenge as both sides try to drive the other out of the neighbourhood.

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This war is of course fought with penis jokes, exploding chair gags and Seth Rogen’s naked body. Debut feature film writers Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien’s script ticks all the gross-out, frat-house comedy checkboxes, and admittedly doesn’t offer much in the way of narrative surprises. But luckily the material is elevated by a cast that definitely shows up with their game faces on. Or in one utterly hilarious case, their Robert De Niro faces on (Franco’s impersonation of Meet The Fockers De Niro is priceless).

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While Rogen essentially just plays Rogen again for the umpteenth time (whether that’s a good or bad thing may depend on your personal Rogen tolerance levels), Byrne gets to show off those raunchy comic chops (and her native Australian accent) last seen used to such brilliant effect in Bridesmaids, while the talented Efron actually gets given a lot more to do than just flex his abs, as the hard-partying alpha male who refuses to face the fact that there’s more to life than just keg stands and hotboxes. So too the film is studded with dialogue between Rogen and Byrne on just how hard it is to finally put behind their former free spirited lives and fully embrace adulthood and all the boring routine that comes with it. But while I do appreciate these conversations for trying to underline all the bawdy, Looney Toons  absurdity with some substance, these ruminations on responsibility do tend to feel like dramatic dead spots in a film that is otherwise a never ending series of raucous R-rated guffaws.

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And laugh you definitely will, because even if all the punchlines aren’t always knockouts and some of the sight gags are more crude than cool, there are still tons of jokes that work with aplomb, including one of the funniest fights seen on screen in years (latex sex toys can be dangerous weapons), and Franco and Efron’s hilarious and lengthy ramble on variations of “Bro’s before ho’s”. And it’s those laugh-a-minute moments that are really the selling point of Bad Neighbours which, like that neighbour who never returns those tools he borrows, definitely has its flaws, but you’ll probably have a good time with it anyway if you just go around, kick back and unwind.

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Neighbors opened in theatres this past Friday, 18 July 2014.

Last Updated: July 21, 2014

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Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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