For the more innocent-minded amongst us, a comedy as raunchy as Bad Neighbours might seem like a poor fit. Clearly made for a young adult audience it’s packed with the sort of obligatory content you would expect: ear-splitting parties, explicit sex, drugs and an unhealthy intake of alcohol. But anyone expecting a brainless comedy will find themselves surprised. Though struggling through a slow and painfully awkward opening, once the neighbourly feud gets going Bad Neighbours proves an entertaining and surprisingly deep ride.
Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, Superbad) and Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) play a young couple recently moved to the suburbs to start a quiet family life with their new-born baby. But when the house next-door is acquired by a fraternity, led by Zac Efron (17 Again, That Awkward Moment) and Dave Franco (Now You See Me), the feud between youths and adults results in a hilarious back-and-forth struggle to gain the upper hand.
Though certainly not all jokes hit home (one such awkward example focuses on a lactating Byrne being milked as if she were a distressed cow) the film has enough energy to pick itself up. The instigating events make for a sometimes predictable plot (you might be able to guess what happens when the suburban couple promise not to call the police…) but most gags present fresh and engaging scenarios. Terms such as ‘bros before hoes’ are turned on their head in typically Rogen-esque fashion and the climax does a nice job of capping off an already absurd stream of events and is so ridiculously intense that it is sure to leave jaw-muscles aching with glee.
Efron does a fantastic job portraying the carefree Frat President Teddy, whose mind is set on having his picture forever honoured on the fraternity hall-of-fame with no regards to his own future. Yet his ‘obsession with the old couple next-door’ leads to a journey of self-discovery. Rogen and Byrne’s characters have a lot in common with the kids of the fraternity in that they’re unwilling to leave their youthful days behind. Byrne takes the lead in coming up with mischief, a refreshing turn for the female role usually reserved for acting as a nagging and responsible surrogate for the audience, and her performance almost steals the show. Rogen is well-suited as her partner and, as in Knocked Up, brings a believable performance as a well-intentioned man-child. The film’s depth of character is what makes this not just another raunchy comedy but a satisfying story about transitioning into adulthood. Just as Teddy comes to mature as events unfold, the young couple learn that their biggest adventure is still ahead of them, a reminder any audience can take to heart.
Despite a hit-and-miss barrage of jokes Bad Neighbours boasts unlimited energy, like most raunchy young adult comedies, but excels beyond thanks to the depth with which its characters develop and the fantastic lead performances that present them. The premise may be nothing new, but Bad Neighbours’ delivery is certainly refreshing and makes for an entertaining flick, provided you can stomach the opening slog.