By Alistair Ryder
The one thing every critic should do, regardless of what it is they review, is keep their reviews as objective as possible (something that isn’t an easy task when it comes to delivering personal opinions, and why people should share yours). When reviewing comedies, this way of thinking goes out the window, as there is nothing more subjective than a sense of humour- worse still, it’s hard to justify exactly why it is I find these things funny, as nothing kills jokes like over-analysis. So, you’ll just have to take my word for it- “Bad Neighbours” is pretty funny.
Following the selling of the house next door to a local college fraternity, led by Zac Efron (relishing the chance to play a massive douchebag) and Dave Franco, a happily married couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) insist on befriending them to ensure they keep the noise down so their baby daughter can sleep. This plan initially works, although they are warned not to call the cops. Naturally, the cops eventually get called, and a battle between the two houses begins.
Upon the release of “Knocked Up”, director Judd Apatow (who hasn’t produced this film, despite it feeling like the stereotypical Judd Apatow production) was heavily criticised by lead actress Katherine Heigl, who described the film as “sexist” due to the side-lining of female characters and making them appear “uptight” compared to the guys. This isn’t the case here, with Rose Byrne’s character being an equal driving force in the comedy, and is a well-tuned comic partner to Seth Rogen. On many levels, this could easily be seen as one of the final steps needed to make female comic actresses equal to their male counterparts; this is arguably the first “gross-out” style comedy, with two central male leads, which actively lets a female comic actress get as many funny lines and set pieces as the guys- although whether or not her being “milked” by Seth Rogen is an argument for or against feminism is a completely different issue.
If there is a complaint, it’s that we are supposed to be identifying both with Rogen/Byrne and the opposing frat house, meaning that the film too often wanders into territory where it appears to be celebrating the obnoxious fraternity “Bro” culture that it’s supposed to be satirizing. I’m also unconvinced about the visual style of the film, with a particular offender being the “Facetime” windows popping up on screen during the early scenes, which are as welcome as a browser full of pop-up ads for LiveJasmin.com. On the other hand, the framing of some of the frat house “chanting” scenes put me in mind of the karaoke sequences in “Only God Forgives”, as expressionless onlookers give their full attention to the central speaker- although it’s safe to say that Nicolas Winding Refn’s hallucinogenic art-house thriller was not an influence here.
Still, the Seth Rogen brand of comedy remains reliably familiar, with the usual mix of winning “gross out” jokes and pop-culture references (a baby dressed as Heisenberg is inherently funny) still providing far more laughs than groans. It’s nothing you haven’t seen already, but that isn’t stopping me finding it funny.