The curse of the funny trailer strikes again with Bad Neighbours, a crude comedy that promised great things but delivers anything but. Everyone must have seen the airbag joke by now. You know the trailer where Seth Rogan sits on his chair at work and finds that a car airbag has been implanted into it? It’s funny right? But because that trailer has played in front of so many movies these past couple of months, I’ve seen it around six times. So, in the film, when I saw it for the seventh time, I didn’t laugh one bit.
Of course, one can’t blame the film itself for the problems at the heart of its marketing. But you can blame the film for not offering a large enough range of hilarious scenes to sustain its running time. And Bad Neighbours seriously fails on this point.
Humour is probably the most subjective form of entertainment and there will be some viewers out there who will rush to tell you why Bad Neighbours (or just Neighbors as it is called in the USA) is the funniest film of the year. They are welcome to it. I, however, found it to be disappointing, repetitive and rather boring.
The plot is simple: a couple with a new baby (Rose Byrne and Seth Rogan) have to contend with a noisy fraternity moving in next door. At first they try to be friends by getting in with the head guy (Zac Efron) but soon they fall out, unleashing a torrent of pranks and abuse.
Cruelty and nastiness can be funny (just watch anything written by Julia Davis) but when it just becomes a torrid chain of vapid sex jokes, it’s easy to start yearning for something more intellectually stimulating. Writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien desperately struggle to build a story worth caring about out of what is, in the end, a sequence of patchy sketches, but this task proves just too difficult. The story never really has anywhere to go.
The repetition becomes the film’s most crippling flaw. Here’s how the majority of the movie goes: Frat House gets noisy / the couples get upset and plan to bring them down / Frat House retaliate / the couple get upset and plan to bring them down / Frat House retaliate… and repeat. This isn’t the only example of repetition. One sequence involves Efron and Dave Franco (who plays his best friend) trading off multiple different ways (and I’m talking loads) of saying the phrase “Bros before hoes”. It’s supposed to be endearing, but I found it extremely irritating. No matter how many times they say it, it doesn’t make it any funnier or any less sexist.
Though an accusation of misogyny might be pushing it, this film isn’t going to win any awards for feminism. The film has next-to-zero substantial female characters and even Byrne’s turn is woefully underdeveloped. In the end, her most memorable moment is an extended and very visual breast-feeding joke that feels like it belongs to a comedy from 30 years ago, not 2014.
The film also has a disturbingly relaxed attitude to drug abuse. Not only do the irresponsible Frat House members consume drugs, but so do the sympathetic parents. Of course, this film is not to be taken as a serious work, but the normalising of extremely dangerous illegal substances is rather horrible to witness. I can’t help but feel worried about the impressionable 15 year olds who will watch the film and come out thinking marijuana is harmless and magic mushrooms risk-free.
As I have said, you may love Bad Neighbours and shout about it from the rooftops, but I have to be honest: I checked my watch four times. And for a comedy that runs for only 90 minutes, this isn’t a good sign.
Bad Neighbours (2014), directed by Nicholas Stollar, is released in cinemas in the UK by Universal Pictures, Certificate 15.