– Summary –
Director : Nicholas Stoller
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jerrod Carmichael, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Lisa Cudrow, Craig Roberts, Hannibal Buress, Halston Sage, Ali Cobrin,
Approx Running Time : 97 Minutes
Synopsis: A happily married couple are horrified to learn a fraternity has moved into the place next door. Tensions rise when said couple call the cops on the party boys, and things escalate from there.
What we think : You know that old saying, the one that goes “if it’s too loud, you’re too old”? Bad Neighbors (or just Neighbors if you’re outside Australia) is one of those comedy films that is just far, far too loud. Which means I’m too old. Obnoxiously ribald, smothered in crass, and hard to watch an actress of Rose Byrne’s caliber descend to this kind of material, Bad Neighbors is offensively unfunny and tediously stupid. Seth Rogen is his usual self, Zac Efron is kinda cool, but the rest of this mess is just a hodgepodge of bad, badder, and worse decisions.
I’ll bite – comedies that rely on stupid people making stupid decisions to draw out a laugh irritate me more than they entertain, so naturally I read the synopsis of this film, a tit-for-tat lets-be-nasty flick, with a fair amount of disdain. Prejudiced? Yes. Warranted? Absolutely. Here in Australia, we already have a long-running soapie show called Neighbours, so the promotional department tagged “Bad” onto the title just to make sure dumb people knew they were going to watch a dumb movie, not a dumb television show. Bad Neighbors is the kind of bad taste “adult” comedy that bases its entire premise on a bunch of people being idiotic, and not like actual people. For some, that might make for an entertaining night in front of the box, but for an old fart like me, this represents all that’s crass, ugly and terrible about American comedy. The fact a terrific Aussie actress like Rose Byrne is involved just makes this bitter, asinine comedy pill even harder to swallow.
Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are a young couple who’ve just had a baby. Finding themselves increasingly isolated from their friends, they are horrified to learn that a collegiate fraternity has moved into the house next door. In an attempt to ward off any animosity from partying and noise, they try and befriend the lads. Unfortunately, after several nights of constant parties, most of which keep both them and their baby daughter awake, they decide to break a promise they made to frat president Teddy (Zac Efron) and vice-president Peter (Dave Franco) to not call the cops on them, by calling the cops. Teddy and Peter then declare war, with the fighting and pranks escalating in seriousness as Mac and Kelly fight to keep their home their own, and get the frat boys out.
Perhaps it’s just me, but is it becoming apparent to anyone else that American comedy, by and large, is becoming less and less funny, and more reliant on idiotic antics to sell tickets? The kind of buffoonish, arrogant, horrid dissociative humor derived not from wit or observation, but from people constantly basing everything around dick and fart jokes? Bad Neighbors delivers exactly that kind of material, which is to be expected from a Seth Rogen “comedy”; tit and ass jokes, penis gags, raunchy “partying” disguised as plot development, and stupid, asinine people being utterly contemptible to each other for no other reason than just to annoy the hell out of each other, is the kind of comedic trope that needs to be handled delicately if it’s to work. In some cases, it can work well, but I’m finding as I get older and have less patience for people in films making stupid decisions that this genre of film is increasingly dependent on people’s liberal use of the word f@ck, reducing the laughs from situational material to simply watching folks stand about and find new ways to verbally abuse each other.
Seth Rogen, the star of this vapid, condescending attempt at humor, is an actor I have very mixed feelings about. Sometimes, he can provide a great performance that is generally far above his normal level – take 50/50, for example, he was terrific in that – but there’s the more common occurrence where his humor seems skewed more towards adolescent circle-jerking than anything actually intelligent. His gruff, buffoonish behavior in these types of films (Superbad, Knocked Up, Funny People and This Is The End) teeters towards juvenile shit, and I often find myself despising this kind of ribald, rancid material as low-brow and demeaning. Bad Neighbors demonstrates that nothing has changed. Rogen, as well as fellow male cast-mates Zac Efron and Dave Franco (and to a smaller extent Ike Barinholtz, as one of Mac’s best friends) spend the film doing as much debauched stuff to themselves and each other as a single film can stand, and I know there’s a segment of the community out there who might find watching Rogen pile-drive into Rose Byrne as intrinsically amusing, but for some reason it just feels misogynistic.
Misogynistic. That’s the word I think which encapsulates this film. Bad Neighbors is so utterly a film debasing women, even for comedy purposes, that the level of it actually becomes off-putting. The frat boys all have girlfriends (or babes, I guess) who are entirely as dumb as posts, and aside from Byrne, there’s almost zero female balance within the narrative of this one at all. Girls are treated as objects for sex and titillation, because the idea of having a woman who can think for herself and not have to stoop to tits and ass jokes is something of a rarity these days. Byrne is crucified by this script, which actually has her being milked by Rogen at one point after not expressing breast milk soon enough and making her boobs swell up to look like giant veiny udders. Ugh. Really? This might pass for comedy in the trenches of teenage fantasy or the back row of a darkened cinema, but for the more enlightened it represents the nadir of this film.
As the pranks by both the frat boys and the adults become more and more outlandish, and people actually start to get hurt (at one point, a passer-by cops a barbeque grill to the face!) the film becomes barely coherent. The narrative crams in as many fraternity cliches and obnoxiously cretinous activities that it begins to lose momentum trying to build to a “frantic farcical climax”, the film ends up just becoming more and more stupid as it goes. The moment Rogen and Efron decide to have a stand-up fight in the frathouse hallway, the film collapsed. What annoys my most is that the film even tried to give Efron’s Teddy a subplot about living large at college and then failing at life – Teddy doesn’t study, using all his time at college to make a name for himself as the president of the fraternity. This subplot could have been extended into something at least decent about the film, but it offers little to the overall story other than mild development for Teddy as somebody other than just a rude, obnoxious douche.
The “bro’s before hos” mantra, so often heard around fraternity houses (I hear), also gets a run, another skewed misogynistic joke that lands as hard and as clumsily as the idea of Rogen ever being an ideal parent. And the penis jokes….. holy hell, you’ve never seen so many in your life. From a scene were Franco thinks himself into an erection, to another where the frat boys take plaster molds of their engorged members (with one forgetting to shave his pubic region and requiring a quick rip from a fellow frat-mate), to a brief glimpse of Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s “enormous” manhood wrapped around the neck of one of Mac and Kelly’s friends, there’s more penis per square inch here than a Rocco Siffredi movie.
The longer this film went, the more I despised it. While it only runs some 90-odd minutes, it feels like an eternity as stupid, idiotic characters make stupid, idiotic decisions, and stretch a one-note joke out to an entire film. Offensive to free-thinking people, it offers little but a full gamut of innuendo, drug and drinking references that were old when John Belushi made them, crass sex humor and bodily function material that is about as funny as watching a dog shit on your lawn. Bad Neighbors isn’t my kind of film, nor should it be yours. Some may claim it’s the most hilarious film of the year, and that it’s a harmless, benign raunch-comedy that offers diverting laughs for a while, but in truth it’s as offensively misanthropic towards women as it is deadeningly inane. Bad Neighbors is just that – bad.