|'A catalogue of unfunny neglectful parenting by Mac and Kelly, initially played for laughs but eventually not even acknowledged'|
Released simply as Neighbors in the US, initially I assumed that Bad Neighbours had been retitled for its international release to avoid any confusion with a certain long-running Australian soap opera. Having now seen the film, however, I can only assume that the additional adjective is some sort of confession on the part of all involved in making this film, in desperate hope of driving as many unwitting potential viewers away from the cinematic abomination they have concocted.
If indeed the "bad" in the film's title does describe one faction of the warring neighbours featured (although there is ample evidence for it to refer to both), then perhaps surprisingly it feels more applicable to suburbanite Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and his wife Kelly (Rose Byrne) than to the college fraternity who move in next door to them. Mac and Kelly are perhaps the most unsympathetic couple seen in cinema for some time. Director Nicholas Stoller introduces us to the Radners during the opening moments of his film attempting to have sex in their dining room whilst their infant daughter watches a few feet away. From this point onwards, Bad Neighbours presents a catalogue of unfunny neglectful parenting by Mac and Kelly, initially played for laughs but eventually not even acknowledged, Stoller apparently content that he's established the pair don't give two shits about their baby.
Aside from this, the central couple are increasingly objectionable and irritating to the point that, more often than not, you'll find yourself siding with the members of Delta Psi Beta. Led by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), the frat boys are also largely obnoxious and selfish, but there's no question that the central duo are considerably more engaging than their opposite numbers. That said, one of Bad Neighbours' most heinous crimes is the way it wastes its young talent in poorly written, clichéd roles. Whilst Christopher Mintz-Plasse in a one-penis-joke part is somewhat forgivable, Franco both deserves and is capable of more, and Efron much, much more. Perhaps most painful of all, however, is watching the wonderfully talented Craig Roberts, of 2010's Submarine, both humiliated and squandered in a peripheral role only ever named as "Assjuice".
In their screenwriting feature debut, co-writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien forego any coherent plotting, clumsily introducing the central idea within the first ten minutes and then spending the remaining eighty blundering around from one unfunny episode to another, filling any remaining time with repetitive party sequences. There's a suggestion towards the end that the whole film is intended to have a message about growing up and facing responsibilities, but there's incredibly little within what comes before to back this up. Whilst there are maybe one or two moments of relatively successful comedy here, Bad Neighbours lives up to the pejorative attribute in its title in every possible way.
Bad Neighbours is currently playing on Sky Movies.