The mystifying career of Seth Rogen continues its ascendency. I’d suggest he had honed playing a boorish oaf to the point of perfection, but since he is a boorish oaf there’s no real effort involved. Most mystifying of the many mystifying aspects of Bad Neighbours (Neighbors in the US, perhaps because all Neighbours are bad there, so they didn’t need to qualify the title, or because they actually thought UK and Australian viewers might think this was the big screen version of the soap, the same way Avengers Assemble might have been otherwise mistaken for the return of John Steed and Mrs Peel) is the notion that Rogen could possibly be married to Rose Byrne.
Of course, Rogen has history with impossibly out-of-his-league co-stars (Katherine Heigl), and, to be fair to him, he isn’t shy about putting his unenviable body out there as an object of ridicule. I wish he was. Unattractive bodies are usually only funny if the wearer of said unattractive body is funny. Rogen’s perpetual humour operandi is to make unfunny jokes about bodily functions, mostly his cock, or someone else’s cock, homophobic or sexist remarks that he thinks are okay because he’s kind-of sort-of self-aware, and, most of all, weed. Did you know he loves it? Really, really loves it? This may be why his quality control is negligible. Everything is so much funnier when you’re stoned, you see.
Rogen’s best bud (not in a gay way, though), the ubiquitous James Franco doesn’t appear this time out. Instead, Rogen has to do for James’ creepy younger brother Dave. He’s Pete, vice-president of Delta Psi Beta, a college fraternity that moves in next door to Mac (Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Byrne). Pete can summon an instant erection as a party trick. President of the fraternity is Teddy (Zac Effron, who might have been down the gym a bit before making the movie. I’m not quite sure). Having a baby and a job, and needing to sleep to boot, Mac and Kelly understandably are none-too chuffed at the all-night parties that ensue, so call the police when Teddy fails to keep the noise down. Which results in all-out war being waged.
Under normal circumstances there would be no question that sympathies lie with the married couple, but normal circumstances wouldn’t include schlubby Rogen. Seth reminds us straight away what a fantastic comedian he is by launching into a litany of improvised yuks that include Batman impressions, peeing with Effron, lying naked on top of Byrne, and generally being objectionably coarse and uncouth. One can only assume Byrne is a trooper to put up with all this, a predominately male set with no end of laddish antics. On the other hand, she’s Australian so she probably fitted right in.
So it’s a close thing, but these frat kids are still a bunch of unholy shits (as is evidenced by their treatment of one of their least cool and therfore most-abused members, nicknamed Assjuice). When war escalates, Mac floods their basement and Kelly (in one of the few sequences that is actually smartly conceived) induces Pete to cop off with Teddy’s girlfriend. The fraternity retaliate by placing car airbags around the house, in places an unsuspecting baby might well rest for a moment. The frat boys aren’t the most irresponsible kids on the block, however, as Mac and Kelly are the kind of parents who leave their baby alone in the house all night (baby monitor or no). This might be a blessing, as any baby that doesn’t have to grow up being gurned and hucked at by Rogen is a fortunate baby.
This being a post-Apatow comedy of the gross-out oeuvre, and consequently boundary pushing in the most tiresome ways (which roughly means, the more outrageous it is, the funnier it is), there are no end of penis and bodily function gags. The guys all make dildos and sell them for big bucks! Rogen and Effron have a fight with them! The baby nearly eats a condom and then the doctor at the hospital jokes, “Your baby has HIV!” (I know, right, because only squares wouldn’t find that a hoot). Christopher Mintz-Plasse (he had to turn up, didn’t he?) has a extremely long penis, which Carlo Gallo wears as a necklace. Absolutely priceless! An extended scene involving Mac milking Kelly features the odd mildly funny line, but wears the patience by going on for way too long.
On the plus side, Lisa Kudrow consistently raises the laugh bar in her cameo as the dean of the university, Byrne should do more comedy, and Hannibal Buress gets to indulge a string of Garfield jokes (“I hate Monday. I love lasagne”) as Officer Watkins and there’s a Six Million Dollar Man sound effect. Director Nicholas Stoller’s career actually seems on the descendent quality-wise (no mean feat since he wrote Gulliver’s Travels) and hitching himself to Rogen’s train does him absolutely no favours. Despite Bad Neighbours featuring no likeable characters it somehow manages to conclude with everyone becoming best of pals. They all mean well really. This is sloppy, coarse and moronic. The usual Seth Rogen movie, basically.