Film review: Bad Neighbours

19:38, May 11 2014
bad neighbours
BAD NEIGHBOURS, BAD JOKES: Bad Neighbours runs on a horribly-outdated joke base at times.


Directed by Nicholas Stoller

Reviewed by Graeme Tuckett

I've seen some great R rated comedies in my life. There's Something About Mary, King Pin, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids. All jaw-droppingly crass at times, and all excellent films.

What they had in common was a purpose, and a story to tell. They were about growing up, about letting go, about chasing a dream. They were, at least, about some damn thing.

When you're talking about films "What is it about?", and "What happens in it?" are very different questions. "What's it about?" is asking what a film has got to say. "What happens in it?" is the easy bit. Any doofus can invent a bunch of stuff happening. It's the difference between The Hangover - which I gave 5 stars - and The Hangover Part II which was lucky to get two.


Some films, like some people, are all face and no guts. Bad Neighbours is one of those films.
Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are a young couple with a new baby. Everything they have is in a beautiful house in the burbs, and they are settling into being a family. Rogen does something in an office cubicle that pays the mortgage, despite him being stoned everyday. Byrne stays home with baby. And then Zac Efron and his Frat' buddies move in next door, and transform it into party central. Rogen and Byrne try the police, but due to a plot contrivance too stupid to contemplate, the police won't help.

From there, Bad Neighbours descends into a sketch comedy. No scene owes much to the one before, and the whole barely hangs together as a coherent story.

A couple of moments work well: there's a riff on breastfeeding that is truly funny, and a gag involving a car airbag would have been fantastic, if it hadn't already been shown in the trailer. But overall, Bad Neighbours is pointless and cynical, in a way that no film ever should be.

And one thing more: Some of the funniest films I've seen have also been some of the filthiest. But there's a world of difference between the likeably crass, and the plain mean-spirited. Bad Neighbours treats every one of it's female characters - except for Byrne - appallingly. Young women are routinely referred to as "ho's", and written out as soon as the men have finished with them.

I was astonished a few months back, when the writers of This Is The End (co-written by Rogen) tried to win a laugh with a "joke" about the idea of raping Emma Watson. Bad Neighbours carries on that ugly trope of playing misogyny for entertainment.

We're better than that. There's a lot about American culture that I love, but we rejected their racism in the 1940's, we rejected their war-mongering in the 1960's and 70's, and I say we can reject puerile American attitudes to women and sex in the 21st century. Happy Mother's Day.

Fairfax Media