From the guys that brought you Knocked Up, Superbad, Pineapple Express, This is the End…the list goes on and you know what to expect by now. This new wave of stoner comedy is producing films as thick and fast as the cheap knob-gags in Seth Rogen’s new comedy ‘Bad Neighbours’, or just simply ‘Neighbors’ in the US. Directed by Nicholas Stoller, the plot sees Rogen and Rose Byrne, as married couple Mac and Kelly, move into their first family home with newborn daughter, Stella. They have embraced their new ‘grown-up’ family lifestyle but still have the urge to party, so when a fraternity fronted by Zac Efron’s ringleader Teddy moves in next door, they are reminded of the carefree existence they used to have, leaving them less than impressed. This sets up a neighbourhood rivalry filled with jealousy, resentment and ridiculous pranks.
There is perhaps a little more going on than you’d expect from the Goldberg-Rogen pairing as ideas are raised around the changes in a young person’s life when they take on the responsibilities of parenthood. It’s like a delayed coming-of-age tale concerned with the transition into thirties rather than twenties. Does bringing a life into the world end the life of the parents, or a certain aspect of it at least? This theme runs through the film but is disguised by silliness that doesn’t quite get funny enough. The smaller jokes work best, and there are a few nicely written one-liners but laugh-out-loud moments are too few and far between.
Seth Rogen is on form playing essentially another version of himself, and his trademark laidback personality is as watchable as ever as he delivers his pop culture loaded dialogue. Rose Byrne is equally as good, and is a natural within the improvisational style associated with films of this ilk. Zac Efron also puts in a solid performance, and doesn’t seem out of his comfort zone among the experienced comedic actors. The usual faces crop up in the supporting cast, such as Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Dave Franco and to an extent, they fit their purpose but from the smaller parts, it is British rising star Craig Roberts who impresses the most as the laughing stock known as Assjuice. As the momentum dips around halfway, his cameo helps pick it back up again. His understated manner of black Brit-comedy finds an odd but pleasurable match with the bolder, eccentric Yiddish approach.
‘Bad Neighbours’ has a smartly written script and a great use of physical humour and because of this, it will slide in nicely amongst other films of its kind. By now, the aforementioned ‘guys that brought you…’ have finely tuned their target audience and know exactly which buttons to push to wedge a lot of sniggers and immature laughs into a neat 90 minute movie. There are moments when the film hints at a slight change in direction, showing signs of mature undertones, but then, right on cue, sneaks out for a crafty J when the boss isn’t watching.