Seth Rogen and Nicholas Stoller are responsible for some of the funniest comedies of the noughties, from 2007’s Superbad to The Five-Year Engagement (2012). Bad Neighbours (2014) marks the first time the Apatow alumni have teamed up, and on this evidence it’d be a shame if it was the last; frequently earning hearty audience laughs, both director and actor are at the top of their game in this impressive entry. Rogen and Rose Byrne play Mac and Kelly, a young and married couple who are struggling to adjust to a quieter life with their new-born baby. Not helping matters is the arrival of the Delta Psi Beta fraternity led by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), who set up shop next door.
In a desperate bid to avoid future squabbles, Mac and Kelly do their best to bond with their obnoxious new neighbours, even offering them a joint as a friendly welcome gift. As Delta Psi’s outrageous parties get louder and wilder however, war is declared and a myriad of pranks ensue. It’s at this point when the already consistently humorous Bad Neighbours shifts up another gear still, and the vast majority of gags hit their mark in spectacular laugh-out-loud fashion. There’s a really nice balance of the gross-out, verbal, and slapstick comedy varieties too, from clever uses of car airbags to Batman impersonations. Stoller’s raucous comedy could easily have coasted on the strengths of its gags alone such is its impressive hit ratio. Thankfully, however, Bad Neighbours’ superb script is far from wanting.
The fraternity versus parents premise is a decidedly simple one, but the surprising amount of depth to the characters helps mine it for all its worth. For Efron’s Teddy, his love of partying stems from doubts about his future, while our central couple must learn to figure out how to settle down without losing the spark of their younger years. That the jokes keep coming whilst this character development manages to be conveyed is a testament to Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien’s tight screenplay. From top to bottom, almost every member of the ensemble fully utilising their screentime.
Playing the regular family man once again, Rogen’s comic credentials are well known at this point but his shtick is as funny as ever, with Byrne proving to be an excellent foil. As for former High School Musical star Efron, this is definitely one of his smarter role choices and it’s a strong, charming performance. There are also memorable turns and cameos from a number of familiar faces including Lisa Kudrow, Jason Mantzoukas, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and more. Comfortably one of the better comedies of the year thus far, Bad Neighbours will have you laughing from the get-go.