thu 29/10/2020

Bad Neighbours | reviews, news & interviews

Bad Neighbours

Bad Neighbours

Winning comedy starring Zac Efron as a frat brat

Zac Efron in his first unsympathetic role, as an annoying fraternity president

Zac Efron has well and truly left behind his cute High School Musical persona. First he bared all in That Awkward Moment and now in Bad Neighbours he plays his first unsympathetic role – but his fans will be delighted to know that he gets lots of opportunities to show off his six-pack again in Nicholas Stoller's winning comedy.

Zac Efron has well and truly left behind his cute High School Musical persona. First he bared all in That Awkward Moment and now in Bad Neighbours he plays his first unsympathetic role – but his fans will be delighted to know that he gets lots of opportunities to show off his six-pack again in Nicholas Stoller's winning comedy.

Efron plays Teddy, president of a college fraternity who move in next door to Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, pictured below), a thirtysomething couple with a new baby. At first Mac and Kelly, who used to be party animals themselves and reminisce about their wild days, want to be down with the kids – leading to some cringe-inducing comedy as they offer Teddy and his crew their pot stash and speak in hideously out-of-date hip talk. But soon the never-ending parties grate and the couple complain to the police (Hannibal Buress doing a nice turn as the laidback but slightly weird local beat officer).

The tension racks up, leading to all-out war between the neighbours, in which Mac and Kelly, with the help of their friends Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) and Paula (Carla Gallo), try to outwit Teddy and his fraternity brothers - including Dave Franco, fantastic as the rather less unhinged vice president, Pete. Nothing is off limits, whether it's wrecking property or relationships as each party tries to gain the upper hand

The fights and physical mayhem are Tom and Jerry-style and the cast (many of whom are stand-ups or comic writers) carry off some very broad comedy with a lightness of touch. Lisa Kudrow, meanwhile, has a great cameo as the college dean, who speaks entirely in soundbites. 

Some of the dialogue was semi-improvised (the actors riffed on set and then Stoller added material to Brendan O'Brien and Andrew Jay's script) and it shows in the freshness of delivery - Byrne in particular benefits from this approach, showing herself to be a natural comic. There are some neat throwaway gags - “oh, it's a gay couple... and another gay couple,” says Mac excitedly as the frat boys, in almost identical dress, emerge from the U-Haul van on moving-in day – and, this being a film with Seth Rogen in it, lots of gross-out humour too, not least a scene involving the baby and a discarded condom.

The main theme – the pain of leaving our youth behind – is subtly reinforced throughout, not just in the interplay between the leads, but also in the denouement of Pete's and Jimmy and Paula's stories; and even if this is, Byrne aside, a largely female-free environment, I think that reflects the creators' view that men have more difficulty with growing up, rather than any desire to paint women out of the picture. It starts rather slowly, but once it gets into its stride Bad Neighbours rattles along and has lots of laugh-out-loud moments - and the film's highlight is a beautifully calibrated performance by Efron as a frat brat with borderline psychotic tendencies.

Mac and Kelly want to be down with the kids, leading to some cringe-inducing comedy

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters