Bad Neighbors

Year: 2014
Production Co: Good Universe
Studio: Universal
Director: Nick Stoller
Producer: Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg
Writer: Andrew J Cohen/Brendan O'Brien
Cast: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Lisa Kudrow

Bad Neighbours is a bit of an anomaly. There's a strong feeling of homage to a premise – misbehaving college frat boys - that was old and tired by the end of the 1980s. Whatever college fraternities are like in real life, Hollywood still portrays them as cesspits of underage alcohol and drug abuse and sexual excess.

In scenes that depict the housemates of president Teddy (Zac Efron) having wild parties, smoking weed or all the other tropes from the heyday of the genre, you expect Dan Monahan, Robert Carradine or Rodney Dangerfield to walk into the frame and scream 'toga party' (and yes, there's a toga party scene).

Teddy and his underlings move in next door to Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) a couple with a newborn baby determined to hold onto whatever free-wheeling lifestyle they once had as a young, childless couple.

Their first thought when a gang of boozing youths move in to the house next door is that even though the endless partying they expect might cause a little drama, it's their chance to show how cool they are. They welcome Teddy and his pals to the neighbourhood with the gift of a little grass to establish their credentials, slipping in a throwaway request about respecting privacy and silence after hours.

The wheels fall off fast, the cops are called, and war is declared. That's the plot – the rest of the running time is taken up with gags and set pieces that feel increasingly contrived and asinine – another mainstay of 80s college comedies seemingly transplanted to a modern comedy.

It's a slender premise to begin with, and then it comes into its own the movie runs out of ideas quickly. There's a lot of padding to fill up the running time - including subplots about the relationship between Teddy and his second in command Pete (Dave Franco) and Mac and Kelly's divorced best friends - and none of it really seems to gel together very well.

Another of the grand old traditions of comedies past – one Neighbours isn't the only comedy guilty of – is using a frankly silly narrative as an excuse for a series of jokes.

First time writers Andrew J Cohen and Brendan O'Brien have written enough of them to give you a few chuckles, and the script lets Rogen off the leash enough to do what he does best. But in another era and with less famous names it would have been a straight to VHS release alongside Pink Motel and Hollywood Hot Tub.

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