Growing up – ★★★
Bad Neighbours pitches itself as a battle between students and young parents. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are the couple who are just adjusting to life with a new baby in the suburbs when their idyllic 30-somethings existence is interrupted by the arrival of a college fraternity next door. The frat is headed up by Zac Efron with Dave Franco as his sidekick.
From the marketing of the film you’d be forgiven for thinking this was aimed at college audiences who have spent years being sucked in by things like American Pie and Superbad, but in reality the frat crowd are only supporting players to Rogen’s Mac Radner and Byrne’s Kelly Radner. This is a film which has done the market research and knows that a strong, happy couple – and while their relationship is tested it is never really in jeopardy – may now do better with paying audiences than college-focused comedies. People are growing tired of the young care-free folk that these gross-out comedies used to try and sell us and are instead acknowledging that it’s OK to grow a little older (dis)gracefully.
As a central couple the Radners are actually lovely to be around. Perfect Sunday morning brunch and a walk folks. The frat boys are a little harder to get your head around though. Efron’s Teddy in particular is too much of a caricature to really buy into and the pranks he comes up with to blight the Radner’s lives are too ridiculous to actually be believable. Dave Franco takes his real-life older brother’s place as a Rogen adversary and it’s hard not to warm to him. When can we get Rogen, Jonah Hill and the two Francos to work together as a top-line cast? Maybe in a Marx brothers biopic.
Whatever “comedy” tests you have in play (I’m a believer in the patented Mark Kermode “six laugh test”), chances are the film will pass it as these are all very funny people at work. Rogen has been playing a variation on the same character for close to decade now but weed jokes still work wonders for him. Some of the humour trys to push the gross-out buttons a little too hard (*ahem* prosthetic breast feeding scene *ahem*) but sure you can’t just try to please the late 20s crowd and so probably have to make some concessions to the college kids and their filthy standards.
Plot and pacing-wise the film does brilliantly for three-quarters of hour at which point it starts repeating itself a bit. The college kids are trying to do something amazing to get on the wall of fame so have loud parties which annoy their lovely neighbours. And repeat. If you’re in the mood for a coffee break then there’s ample opportunity in this middle act where things get tiring. But as with most of these Hollywood comedies they manage to pull out a pretty satisfying final act and pay-off so kudos to all.
Quick nod to the appearance of Lisa Kudrow, Submarine’s Craig Roberts and McLovin’ from Superbad. Inspired supporting casting decisions even if they’re given very little to do.
Simply put, Bad Neighbours (or Neighbors as our Aussie-soap-unaware American friends are calling it) has been created as an evolution of the gross-out Hollywood comedy and is largely successful in its attempts to pull in a more mature crowd. More please.
Released across Ireland on May 3rd (yes a Saturday) 2014