I had a sudden epiphany while watching “Bad Neighbours” – I’m old. There’s no getting away from it, I have no grounds to empathise or side with the cool young party people. Instead, I’m further along the grown up married/ kids/ mortgage path even than Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) Radner. Luckily, this relentlessly provocative, good naturedly boundary-pushing, bawdy comedy doesn’t make you choose sides. It strikes a terrific balance between the entire cast and the result is one of the best comedies in years.
Mac and Kelly have bought a house and settled into the comfort (and drudgery) of every day suburban life with their (super cute and hilarious) baby daughter Stella. When the house next door is sold to a College Fraternity, things initially go well. Fraternity President Teddy Sanders (an impossibly buff Zac Efron) and VP Pete Regazolli (Dave Franco) welcome their new neighbours and establish a rapport by inviting them to one of their parties. However, when the initially cordial relationship turns sour over a broken promise, a vicious, creative and hilarious prank war breaks out between the neighbouring houses.
Anyone who eyerollingly dismisses this as ‘yet another frat house’ comedy will be missing a real treat, and easily one of the best comedy films of the past ten years. Expertly blending the best of the gross-out, I-can’t-believe-they-just-did-that humour of the “American Pie” films with the witty, barbed family life observations of TV’s “Modern Family”, “Bad Neighbours” takes that mix and throws in a handful of ‘shrooms, a giant spliff and more dick and fart jokes than you can shake an oversize rubber dildo at. Subtle this is not. Laugh out loud hilarious it is. As the warring households’ schemes and counter schemes pile dizzyingly on top of each other with alarming speed, you won’t have stopped laughing at one gag before another sets you off again.
Rose Byrne, free to use her real Australian accent is more relaxed and funnier than I have seen her before while Seth Rogen’s chubby everyman charm is set on full power here and helpfully offers a more attainable body image compared to Zac Efron’s unfeasibly ripped (and frequently shirtless) fraternity bro. Efron has his sex appeal and sparkly eyed charisma turned all the way up to eleven but has the comedy acting chops to hold his own against Rogen. The pair create a fantastically kinetic onscreen adversarial comedy partnership, infusing the film with an infectious sense of fun and energy – not least of all in the MTV Movie Awards Best Fight category-baiting brawl between them, which is hands-down one of the funniest dust-ups you’ll ever see.
The supporting cast is pretty great too, with Dave Franco impressing (not least of all with his impression of “Meet The Parents”-era DeNiro), Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the ludicrously well-endowed Scoonie, Jerrod Carmichael as smooth talking Garf and Craig Roberts (“Submarine”) as willing frat pledge ‘Assjuice’. Lining up on the side of the Radners are their divorced friends Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) and Paula (Carla Gallo) while caught in the middle are College Dean Carol Gladstone (Lisa Kudrow) and local Police Officer Watkins (Hannibal Buress). There are brief cameos from the likes of Andy Samberg, Adam DeVine and Jake Johnson and it’s pretty clear that everyone involved in making this film was having the time of their lives. Rogen himself has said the scene with the baby eating the condom made him laugh ‘til he cried.
Director Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, “Get Him To The Greek” and writer of “Muppets Most Wanted”) handles his talented cast incredibly well, knowing when to rein them in and when to let the adlibbing fly. There are more than a few set piece gags in “Bad Neighbours” that are destined to go down in film comedy history but to go into any more detail would be to spoil the many, many laughs this film has to offer. If you’re worried that it gives away its best gags in the trailer, don’t worry – it still has plenty left in the tank to carry the film through its 96 minute running time.
Rude, crude, boisterous and blazingly, achingly funny, Rogen and Efron are on tip top crowd-pleasing form. There hasn’t been a comedy this good in a long, long time. Whichever side you’re on, cancel your house party or book your babysitter and get yourself to the cinema.