Neighbourly love? Not likely

17:00, May 15 2014
bad neighbours

Like a lot of New Zealanders, I'm a little obsessed with property. I know it's tragic but I don't like getting out of bed until I've checked the latest real estate listings on Trade Me.

I also read the news on Stuff and have a look at Facebook, but it's the houses for sale pages that really get my blood pumping. I suspect this sad state of affairs is the result of not getting on the property ladder until after the boom and the fact I'm really nosy.

And while it's nice to dream about moving into a nine-bedroom home with views over the water, a lap pool, games room, fountain, 30-seat cinema and two ensuites for every room, the reality is we are unlikely to be moving any time soon.

This is partly due to the usual financial constraints but it's also because we love where we live, and we're particularly keen on our neighbours. Good neighbours are like gold. If you don't believe me, you've obviously never had bad neighbours.

Given the dramatic potential that surrounds bad blood between people who share boundaries, it's surprising we don't see more movies on the subject. 

The lewd comedy Bad Neighboursn (R16) takes the idea and supercharges it by making one of the households a university fraternity. Think TV’s Neighbours at War meets Animal House.


Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne play Mac and Kelly, a 30-something couple only just coming to terms with the responsibility of being first time parents to a baby girl.

Despite all the interrupted sleep and their daughter’s never-ending needs, life is pretty peachy for Mac and Kelly.  Their pleasant but slightly dull lives get shaken up one day when they discover new neighbours moving in; young men carrying large Greek letters spelling Delta Psi.

Both intrigued and concerned, Mac and Kelly pay a visit and in the process ask the head of the house, Teddy, played by Zac Efron, to try and keep it down.

Teddy promises to be a good neighbour and asks Mac and Kelly to do him one favour: Always ask him to turn down the volume before calling the cops.  Of course, it doesn’t take long before the family and the fraternity are at war.
if Bad Neighboursnf offers audiences several takes on comedy that are a little different from the norm.

For starters the couple under siege are just as badly behaved as their tormentors; Mac and Kelly refreshingly delight in giving as good as they get.

They’re also far from saints when it comes to the human condition; both displaying keen appetites for hedonism and getting out-of-it. 

The other thing that’s a little different for a US comedy is that they actually seem to love each other and, most of the time, get on like a house on fire. The idea that Byrne would be married to a stoner desk jockey like Rogan is, of course, ridiculous, but in lots of ways they resemble a believably happy couple.

The other surprising bit is how sympathetic Efron’s slightly dim-witted villain turns out to be. Teddy may not be the ideal neighbour but he isn’t the total jerk you might expect. On the acting front, Rogan plays himself, Efron shows a talent for comedy and James Franco’s little brother Dave gives his career a boost as Teddy’s right-hand man.

Mark Wahlberg lookalike Ike Barinholtz provides a pleasingly deranged presence as Mac’s best friend and Lisa Kudrow is a laugh in a cameo role.

Best of all, though, is Byrne. Building on her note-perfect performance in Bridesmaids, Byrne is funny, smart, charming, sexy, sly and totally believable.  The woman clearly has a talent for this kind of thing and the sooner we see her back on the big screen the better.

BOTTOM LINE Good fun if you can handle the vulgarity.

Also screening :The Other Woman (M). One of the year's cinematic low points.