[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00IRDIHH0][/pullquote] The combination of Hollywood funny man Seth Rogen with former High School Musical lead Zac Efron in a comedy of a middle-aged couple against a fraternity is a hit-and-miss affair.
Mac and Kelly Radnor (Rogen and Rose Byrne) are a married couple with a new-born. Their pleasant surburban life it disrupted by a fraternity that move in next door headed by President Teddy (Efron) and VP Pete (Dave Franco). After an initial bonding during a party, the family soon grow tired of the Frat’s late and loud parties and call the police, an action that leads to an all-out war between the two houses.
There’s a sense of improv throughout that highlights all of the problems with a lack of focused editing. While some elements that are off-the-cuff are witty and funny, the vast majority are awkward and you’ll find yourself becoming more and more frustrated that director Nicholas Stoller didn’t shout cut sooner. In terms of main characters the foursome of Rogen, Efron, Byrne and Franco are nicely pitched, with sympathies and allegiances of the audience swinging between them all as they take it turns to go to far.
Rogen is always a likable presence on camera and his goofiness nicely underpins Byrne’s more straight-laced reputation. There is some subversion throughout, but once again the ‘point-and-shoot’ nature of the film eventually wears thin and it becomes an unwieldy comedy vehicle that seems to want to be part-mumblecore, part-Animal House, part-gross out and never really defines itself outside of these differing directorial stand-points.
Then there’s the issue of suspension of disbelief. Is any right-minded person supposed to believe that the main couple are the only ones on the entire street to have a problem with the frat moving in? Also why the police so unbelievably absent for large portions of time? All of these little things remove any truth to proceedings and without that, why do we even care? It surely then just becomes an exercise in showing what great improvisational skills they have? Even then, Anchorman this is not.
Ultimately Bad Neighbours suffers under the weight of its own ambition. Pitched as a modern, free-form take on the tired fraternity sub-genre it invokes Animal House and Old School, but never reaches the same heights. Fortunately there is just enough enjoyment to be had in the company of the main characters, and enough jokes to stop it dipping into unbearable territory.
It’s a real shame because there’s the potential for about 4 or 5 very good comedies in here, but the scatter-gun approach that Hollywood seems to be taking toward it’s comedies leave Bad Neighbours as a real mess. Perhaps they hope to distract the audience with enough different genres that they’ll forget that it is supposed to be one coherent film.