Bad Neighbours opens with Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) having sex with his wife, Kelly (Rose Byrne), on a dining room chair. After Rogen has overcome his astonishment at doing such a daring act, he is horrified to learn that his daughter is watching every moment from the vantage point of her baby pod. After failing to withstand her stare for a few seconds, Rogen interrupts the lovemaking and turns his daughter’s pod around, only to find after restarting the business that she can move her head ninety degrees. This joke functions as representative of many within Nicholas Stoller’s film and subscribes to the formula: gross-out references or actions + baby = lots of laughs.
Following a line of influence beginning with the National Lampoon series of films, most notably Animal House (1978) starring John Belushi, and Neighbors (1981) also with Belushi, and ending with the series of films connected to the ubiquitous Judd Apatow, Bad Neighbours delivers a plot and series of gags derived from earlier films. Structurally the film works as a combination of the crazed Delta house party sequences of Animal House, the set-up of Neighbors, the quiet life of a newly wedded couple is threatened by the loud and obnoxious neighbours who have recently moved in and the manic pop culture referencing of those films associated with Apatow.
The film begins with what could feature as a mildly interesting premise. Both Rogen and Byrne are undergoing a crisis. After the birth of their daughter, they have become boring, staying in every night while their single friends are still enjoying the pleasures of youth. For their female friends, this means partying, for Rogen’s male friend Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz), this means casual sex through a variety of new technological outlets – Sexbook, FuckFriends and Grindr – which the internet has made possible. As Rogen and Byrne are terrified of growing old, they attempt various means to appear younger to the college fraternity, led by Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), that has recently moved in next door. However, after numerous jokes have been made to demonstrate their inability to feign youth, Rogen and Byrne’s desire for peace at night starts a war between the two houses. What ensues is a battle and the narrative suddenly switches to Efron and minions versus Rogen and Byrne.
While it was Rogen’s decision to call the police – which Efron warned against – that started this war, his actions following the fraternity’s second party spiralled the conflict out of control. The film thus asks the question: who are the bad neighbours? Is it Efron and company who throw wild parties attended by much of the population of their college, all night every single night without ever receiving a hangover, or Rogen and Byrne whose scheming results in the flooding of the house and the abolition of fraternity code Bros before Hoes?
The film becomes more ridiculous as it progresses with Efron and company planting airbags in Rogen’s office and house which fling unsuspecting persons numerous feet into the air. Indeed the fact that no one comments on the damage these acts have done to both the ceilings and the bodies of its victims, becomes understandable as the film slowly unwinds all connections it once had to realism. Many causal links are denied, the police and college administrators are shown to be morons, while this absence of narrative plausibility opens up the floor for a number of penis-length and erection set pieces (one character has the ability to get an erection if he concentrates hard enough), bad taste HIV jokes by a doctor and further wallowing in stupidity. After the fraternity commits an act which the college eventually deem unacceptable – severely injuring an economics professor with a rolling metal drum – they are placed on probation wherein any wrongdoing will get Efron and company kicked out of their abode. Rogen and Byrne then decide that it is now the time to act, organising a massive party to rival those witnessed earlier in the film.
Despite the complete and utter failings of numerous scenes, this is not to say that Bad Neighbours is a complete waste of time. While the bad jokes often outweigh the good ones and the film stops making sense about a third of the way in, there are various moments in which I laughed out loud. There is one scene in particular which the whole audience, myself included, found hysterical, but I will not reveal the details of such a moment other than the fact it includes milking. Bad Neighbours proves an enjoyable and fairly funny experience but nonetheless one which I cannot praise too highly. If you’re looking for intelligent and original cinema this film is worthless; if you’re searching for a fairly good time and a few laughs Bad Neighbours should be welcomed.