The movie Bad Santa has a lot to answer for. It’s dark, filthy, offensive and hilarious, in all the right ways. But ever since, studios have felt like just whacking “Bad” in front of their movie title means they can steal some of Bad Santa’s caustic credibility. I never saw Bad Teacher, and can’t imagine I ever will. It looked terrible. Jason Bateman’s directorial debut Bad Words looks kind of OK, and I’m sure I’ll get to it at some stage. But what I have seen, is Bad Neighbours.
Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are Mac and Kelly, a young, married couple and new parents who have just bought they’re first, family home. Not long after, Teddy (Zac Efron), Pete (Dave Franco) and their pack of fraternity bros move in next door. Initially, Mac and Kelly see befriending the fraternity as an opportunity to prove that just because they’re parents, it doesn’t mean they’ve become old and boring. Their briefly recaptured youth and coolnesss is a novelty that wears off pretty quickly as the parties next door become louder and longer.
After calling the cops one night to report the noise, Mac and Kelly end up in an ever escalating war of revenge, pranks and one upsmanship with the frat, as they try to have them kicked out of college, and thus kicked out of their party house. All the while, Teddy and Pete are leading their group towards the epic party to end all epic parties at the end of the school year. So you know from the opening minutes of the movie that this party will obviously be the setting for whatever climax Bad Neighbours leads to.
Bad Neighbours has made a lot of money. Especially for a comedy that has been up against blockbusters like The Amazing Spiderman 2 and Godzilla. And that’s a surprise. Not because I think those movies are great and that this one is not. It’s a surprise because Bad Neighbours is such unremarkable, middle of the road, obvious stuff. There are more than a few OK laughs and a couple of really great ones. Seth Rogen is always an easy to watch comic performer, Efron and Franco both do consistently funny stuff.
But the real stand out is Rose Byrne. Instead of being the kind of disapproving, shrill harpy of a wife these movies usually trot out, Bad Neighbours makes her Rogen’s partner in crime, just as willing to be just as extreme as he is. It’s a great new take on what could have been a cliched character and she nails it. The only problem is, Bad Neighbours is built on such a tired, predictable foundation, the actors are only ever just polishing turds and rolling them in glitter.
I also feel like the movie never really decides what it wants to be, or what tone it wants to set. It’s set in the real world, until it wants to go for a big, physical gag involving air bags. Then it’s overly cartoony and jarringly violent for the sake of a not so great joke. Efron’s Teddy is an empty, beefcake bro, until the movie decides it wants to give his character a little pathos and emotion. But it’s too little too late. It’s all big, broad jokes and wackiness, until it tries to deliver a lesson about growing up and moving on. A lesson that feels like it’s from a totally different movie.
Bad Neighbours isn’t terrible. I wouldn’t even say it’s bad. I’d just say there isn’t much to it. By no way worth paying for to see in the cinema, dropping a couple of bucks to hire the DVD might almost be worth it. But the best value for money would be to wait of it to pop up on telly. It might not be worth your money, but it’s kind of worth your time… If there’s nothing better on.