A frat house moves in beside a young couple. Then war breaks out.
Bad Neighbours is the latest from director Nicholas Stoller, who has previously done great work on comedy hits like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Five-Year Engagement – which I liked more than most other humans.
This time around, he’s got a couple of 30 something’s with their first baby trying to cope with the fact that their lives are never going to be the same. When a frat house moves in next door, they’re immediately defensive about their noisy neighbours but also secretly yearn for the carefree life they see through their windows.
It’s an unusually complicated set of motivations for a comedy and its matched on the other side by surprisingly deep characterisation for the kids, including Zac Efron, Dave Franco and Submarine’s Craig Roberts.
It’s a more mature kind of comedy, which also means that the laughs are quite so frequent. In his pursuit of telling an actual story, Stoller leans on drama at times and tends to keep the giggles quite slight. This lower threshold means the moments of high comedy really land though, and the more frenetic second half increases the rate of yucks.
Seth Rogen does his thing with slightly less shouting then usual and Rose Byrne really goes for every scene, continuing her transformation to comedy queen. But its actually Efron who gets the most nuanced role – a senior who has been enjoying the high school life for so long that he never made any plans for the future. He’s got good comic timing and a sometimes ferocious intensity, along with enough good guy moments to almost make us root for him.
In fact, the many ways Rogen and Byrne’s couple are the worst humans in the piece. They’re so depressed by their lives that they practically demand that no one else be allowed to have fun making what happens to them feel all the more justified.
There’s lots to like in Bad Neighbours – good performances, nuanced characters and some proper laugh out loud moments. You won’t be laughing all the time but you might just get some life lessons along the way as well.