Film Review: Bad Neighbours

Posted on:

Stoner Vs Stoner

The comedy of attrition is about contrasts. You think of an anal Steve Martin partnered with lumbering irritant John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Lemmon and Matthau’s Odd Couple and The ‘burbs everyman versus the hammer horror Klopecks. The greater the difference between adversaries, the larger the comedic potential, but Bad Neighbours either doesn’t understand this or never knew it.

Nicholas Stoller’s film pits a couple with a newborn baby, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, against Zac Efron’s frat house, but, perhaps because Rogen isn’t comfortable playing anyone who isn’t a schlubby, stoner-type, his new Dad wouldn’t be out of place at the house next door. That goes double for his good-time wife, Bryne, who’s equally hedonistic and addled by what we imagine to be a half-lifetime of joint sucking.

Listening to a bunch of kids do their crude, hyperactive, shouty shtick would be tiring enough, but when your main characters are just as infantile, the result is a film that’s a real test of endurance. How much rabid banter can you take? The joke is that both parties are as idiotic and immature as each other, Byrne and Rogen’s reluctant responsible adults gradually converted to parenthood when confronted by the personfications of their youth next door, but it’s a gag that requires a lot more subtly and wit to work than you’ll find here. Everything’s funny in moderation: hysteria, stupidity, gross out humour – but 96 minutes of it is exhausting. Every character in Bad Neighbours is on, all the time, and consequently there’s little of the stuff that makes a movie a movie: heart, pathos, little moments of character – the stuff that ‘80’s comedy titan John Hughes did so well.

Instead, in a largely mirthless flick, you’ve got jokes about milking Rose Byrne, a woman wearing an erect penis as a choker and a baby eating a used condom. The inescapable conclusion is that this is a movie made for Rogen proxies: men off their gynecomastic tits on weed. If that’s you, you’re likely to find this tartrazine-fuelled comedy lung-bursting. Everyone else, watching without the benefit of stimulants, will lament the waste of a good set up and wonder if we’ll ever again be treated to a comedy that grafts the jokes on to a human story instead of pushing them up front and jettisoning everything else. The result is like a house without its foundations – shaky and unlikely to stand the test of time.

Directed by: Nicholas Stoller

Country: US

Year: 2014

Running Time: 96 mins

Certificate: 15 for Rose Byrne's veined breasts, Phoebe from Friends and the waste of a Die Hard reference opportunity.

9 Responses

  1. Bert says:

    We are suppose to take this review seriously when you can’t even get the title of the movie right?

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      Am I supposed to take this comment seriously when you don’t know that this is a UK based site and that the movie was retitled for UK release to avoid confusion with a popular soap opera?

      • Teelar says:

        Is there no UK poster available to accompany your review?

        • Ed Whitfield says:

          Sadly the London warehouse, home to the servers that stored every electronic copy of the UK poster, was destroyed in an act of cyberterrorism – an EMP bomb. It’s been a terribly sad week for fans of Seth Rogen movie posters amended for release in foreign territories.

  2. diannew says:

    I thank you for this great review. When I saw the high rating this movie got on Rotten Tomatoes, I thought maybe I’d go see it, even though I’m not a big fan of Seth Rogen. You saved me several hours, a bit of money, and more than a little aggravation. Thanks.

  3. Rodrigo Espinosa says:

    Pretty mean spirited all around. I read a few more of Mr. Whitfield’s entries and in one he describes Wally Pfister’s previous work as, “lighting cameraman”. What a poor grasp on filmmaking.

    “Lighting”, is under the supervision of a “Gaffer”. The “Camera” is handled by the “Camera Operator.” A “Director of Photography” —Pfister’s actual job at which he is excellent—, oversees the camera crew as a whole; contributes to the general aesthetic of a film; and is the second most important creative force behind the “Shot List.” Said “Shot-List” dictates what “Compositions” are captured throughout the film to make a visually cohesive piece.

    Mr. Whitfield summarizes this whole process as “choosing angles.”

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      Well just two things, 1) lighting cameraman is just another name for DOP/DP/Cinematographer, but as an apparent expert I’m sure you knew that, and 2) the choosing angles comment was in the context of Wally’s directorial ambitions, but I’m sure you knew that too having not skim read and taken the trouble to remember what had actually been written.

  4. Frank says:

    “The comedy of attrition is about contrasts. The greater the difference between adversaries, the larger the comedic potential, but Bad Neighbours either doesn’t understand this or never knew it.”

    You are suggesting there are certain rules of comedy to follow, or that you are a comedy writer yourself putting in your professional two cents. I’m assuming you’re not because you’re a film critic, but if you are you’d know there are no rules to comedy – and that comedy can be found in almost anything.

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      I’m certainly not a comedy writer but that doesn’t negate the point I made. I think you’re half right. Generally speaking there are no rules, in the sense that anything can be funny with the right treatment, and I say in this review that this scenario with these characters could have worked, had there been any wit, but there wasn’t and it didn’t for the reasons I’ve given.

      So why half right? Because in movies at least, there are comedy sub-genres, the practitioners of which have learnt, via trial and error, what gives each the best comic potential. A screwball comedy with the minimum of dialogue and a man and a woman mostly in agreement probably wouldn’t be very funny, a slapstick comedy without many physical gags wouldn’t really work, a farce with just the odd misunderstanding would be unlikely to bring the house down, so this is just an argument about what would have made this movie’s setup work harder for our laughs, and I say that’s a contrast between adversaries of the kind I give examples for.

      Of course the one rule a comedy does have to adhere to is being funny, and I don’t think this movie was. I don’t think it’s enough to say that though, the lack of mirth has to be accounted for, and there’s my answer for it. Perhaps if I’d had a joint…