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Bad Neighbours

The raunchy, raucous, rapid-fire comedy that sees Zac Efron and Rose Byrne join the Seth Rogen comedy pack.
By Tom Clift
May 05, 2014
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By Tom Clift
May 05, 2014
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A neighbourhood dispute turns into all-out suburban warfare in Bad Neighbours, the raunchy, raucous, rapid-fire new comedy from director Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement, Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Adding the word 'bad' to its title in Australia in order to avoid confusion with a certain iconic soap opera, the film marks another sure hit for one-man comic industry Seth Rogen, who slots comfortably into another role that basically amounts to playing himself.

Yet it's Rogen's co-stars Rose Byrne and Zac Efron who are the movie's biggest standouts. Indeed, while the advertising material sells Bad Neighbours as a strictly Rogen versus Efron affair, the film is very much a triple act, with the more dramatically inclined Byrne clearly relishing the chance to cut loose. With a cast game for just about anything, Bad Neighbours accelerates from one over-the-top set-piece to the next. It's ridiculous, juvenile and very, very funny.

Rogen and Byrne play Mac and Kelly Radner, a newlywed couple with a bouncing baby daughter, whose suburban peace is threatened when a college fraternity moves in next door. Chief dude-bro Teddy Sanders (Efron) seems agreeable enough at first, promising to keep the noise to a minimum and even inviting the couple to the frat's inaugural blowout, where a great time is had by all. But when the partying starts up again the following night and continues into the morning, the Radners decide to call the cops.

From there, things escalate quickly. Teddy swears vengeance, and soon the two households are exacting increasingly crass and elaborate acts of sabotage in an attempt to bring the other side down. Screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien pack a staggering number of gags into the film's tight 90-minute runtime, although arguably the more impressive feat is that the vast majority of them land. Stoller allows his cast ample room to improvise, but never to the extent that the movie loses momentum.

Frankly, the performances are all the better for it. Byrne, in particular, seems to feed off the film's breakneck energy, the Australian actress frequently stealing the show from her more seasoned on-screen husband. Likewise, Efron exhibits great comedic instincts as the antagonistic Teddy, a villain who you simultaneously love to hate and actually genuinely kind of like.

That's the other thing about Bad Neighbours: although the script is incredibly vulgar, it's very rarely mean spirited. As insane as their antics are, these characters feel like real people, and as the story careens towards its climax, a big part of you just wants to see Teddy and the Radners hug it out. The biggest part, however, knows that watching them fight is just too damn funny.

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