Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Bad Neighbours (ST)

What will the neighbours say?

Since humanity downed its first pint in upper education, the frat-house has been one of the richest sources of comedic material. Animal House and Old School are among the leading lights to have got sloshed in their toga, streaked around campus, and performed grotesque initiation rituals so debauched they would make the Stonecutters jealous.

Unfortunately for Bad Neighbours, Seth Rogen and Zac Efron are no match for the wizardry of their forbears. Where they perform to a so-so 2:1, John Belushi and Will Ferrell rocketed towards a first.

When Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen and Rose Byrne) move into their dream family home, looking after their newborn baby feels tiresome. Once a rowdy fraternity house move in next door however, their suburban idyll is destroyed for good. The young family are soon forced to declare war against the clique’s handsome but mischievous leader Teddy (Efron).

Just like all the other Seth Rogen comedies to have appeared in the last decade, his latest film has its funny moments but cannot resist becoming obsessed with phallic humour and unnecessary chit-chat scenes. A riff on the changing faces – or rather voices – of Batman is an example of the script at its best, especially when deployed in a fantastically original and chaotic fight scene.

At its worst, crude gags are given too much prominence to be forgiven and forgotten quickly enough. That is not to say that some of the vulgarity is not effective. A scene on the perils of breast
feeding had me chuckling in my seat.

Efron is well cast as a juvenile muppet with the body of Adonis. His performance is a refreshing break from that embarrassing High School Musical image and is only half as annoying as you would expect. Rogen plays an affable Jewish stoner coping with new responsibilities... so basically himself. Otherwise, everybody else runs around like their actions actually mean something. Ok, that is slightly unfair on a generally amusing supporting cast, headed by the game Byrne.

After an hour of pratfalls and poking fun at penises, the plot makes the fatal mistake of trying to develop the characters beyond the level of laughs. Apparently everyone is scared about getting old: I never would have guessed it! This detour into ‘Psychoanalysis for Dummies’ wastes at least five minutes without adding anything worthwhile.

A ruthless editor (sorely needed, by the way) would have also removed the last three dialogue scenes. Remember that cringe-worthy epilogue to Superbad? Yep, it’s reminiscent of that, both involving men in jeans for some inexplicable reason.


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