Frats ver­sus fam­ily

There are game per­for­mances and de­cent laughs in this rude Apa­tow-lite com­edy, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - DON­ALD CLARKE

BAD NEIGH­BOURS

Di­rected by Ni­cholas Stoller. Star­ring Seth Ro­gen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Christo­pher Mintz-Plasse, Lisa Kudrow 16 cert, gen­eral re­lease, 96 min The suc­cess rate on the postA­pa­tow school of im­prov-heavy com­edy is now so low that any even vaguely clever en­try to the genre is wor­thy of cel­e­bra­tion. This might ex­plain the noisy re­joic­ing over Bad Neigh­bours (reti­tled here from Neigh­bours to avoid con­fu­sion with a cer­tain Aus­tralian soap) in the US fol­low­ing its screen­ing at South by South­west. It’s not great, but it’s not ter­ri­ble. That will do well enough.

A swathe of the US com­edy aris­toc­racy has come up with a cun­ning ploy here. Bad Neigh­bours is, es­sen­tially, a beery frat-house com­edy but, by hav­ing us iden­tify with the un­for­tu­nate next-door neigh­bours, the film-mak­ers al­low us to skirt above the de­bauch­ery. We are not laugh­ing with the louts, we are laugh­ing at them. If you say so.

One can’t fault the cast­ing. Dave Franco and Zac Efron flex their mus­cles as two hi­lar­i­ously beau­ti­ful stu­dents. Seth Ro­gen and Rose Byrne are nicely com­ple­mented as the mid­dle-class neigh­bours. Though Byrne is cast as a stay-ath­ome mom, it is nice that she is al­lowed to re­main Aus­tralian (has this hap­pened since Grease?) and be ev­ery bit as funny as the male lead. In­deed, the film even makes a metaref­er­ence – via a dig at Kevin James – to cin­ema’s habit of mak­ing women sen­si­ble but dull in such broad come­dies.

That’s one of the clev­erer bits. There is amus­ing dumb stuff as well. A run­ning gag in­volv­ing the plant­ing of ve­hic­u­lar airbags about Ro­gen’s home and of­fice al­most jus­ti­fies the ad­mis­sion fee on its own. Who wouldn’t pay to see the big man pro­pelled re­peat­edly into an un­wel­com­ing ceil­ing?

Much of the rest is in­dul­gent, over-ex­tended and ram­shackle. The end­ing, in par­tic­u­lar, could hardly be lazier if they had sim­ply al­lowed the cam­era to roll while the grips packed away the scenery and curled up the ca­bles. We don’t ask for Neil Si­mon, but some­thing that re­sem­bled a com­pleted script would be nice.

It’s not a cup of su­gar they want to bor­row: Zac Efron and Dave Franco in

Bad Neigh­bours

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