War of the broses – Bad Neighbours review

Bad Neighbours

By Simon Miraudo
May 5, 2014

A man and woman get to be best friends in Bad Neighbours, making it the most revolutionary comedy of the post-Apatow age. Seth Rogen, who not so long ago starred as Freaks and Geeks‘ resident sarcastic stoner, is, in 2014, charming dad material, playing Mac Radner, loving husband to Rose Byrne‘s Kelly. The Radners are adjusting to life with a newborn baby and their just-purchased suburban home, in denial about the limits now imposed on their hard-partying lifestyle. Whereas previous Seth Rogen movies would have seen our hero reconnect with his youth by befriending a bunch of raucous bros, Nicholas Stoller‘s Bad Neighbours lets our leads come to the realisation that it’s with one another – and their backlog of TV shows – they feel happiest. That they learn this while engaging in a wild war of the broses against the Frat House next door is a technicality.

Zac Efron and Dave Franco, two increasingly reliable comic talents, lead the maniacal frat pack, also comprised of Christopher Mintz-Plasse, up-and-coming comedian Jerrod Carmichael, and Submarine‘s Craig Roberts. Eager to meet the standard set by their beer-pong and toga-party-inventing ancestors, they plot a series of shindigs – including an ingenious De Niro impersonation extravaganza – that keep poor baby Radner from getting her beauty sleep. Though Mac and Kelly initially try to pal up with them, their bub’s run-in with a rogue condom of curious origins begins a battle to the death between the two houses, with Kelly in particular going into Machiavellian ‘mama bear’ mode.

Bad Neighbours

Byrne, allowed to employ her Aussie accent for once, is a veteran of these half-improvised comedies, having appeared in Get Him to the Greek and Bridesmaids. (No need to bring the mood down by mentioning I Give It A Year.) She’s at her funniest, loosest here; Rogen’s best comic foil since the elder Franco in Pineapple Express (apologies to Adam Sandler, Jay Chou, and, er, Barbra Streisand).

It’s always difficult to know how much credit to give the screenwriters of these things. For instance, were Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien responsible for the hilarious non-sequiturs spouted by Hannibal Buress‘ oddball police officer? Maybe not. They were almost certainly behind the sillier, more obvious set pieces, however, like the engorged, milk-filled-boob explosion and the impromptu pubic-hair waxing. Either way: it’s all funny. Director Nicholas Stoller, having clearly learnt a lesson on his seemingly-endless, misshapen Five-Year Engagement, makes this his tightest, shortest film yet. Although it doesn’t reach the moving heights of his debut Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Bad Neighbours is one of the more emotionally satisfying entries of the modern-comedy canon, with one monster of a role for one very talented lady.

4/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Bad Neighbours arrives in Australian cinemas May 8, 2014.

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