As a long-running Antipodean soap opera repeatedly reminds us, “Everybody needs good neighbours with a little understanding.”
The married thirty-somethings at the centre of Nicholas Stoller’s potty-mouthed comedy wish they were so fortunate.
They wake one morning to discover the new neighbours are booze-guzzling fraternity boys, who throw raucous parties for their fellow students and hold barbecues on the front lawn.
Relations between the two households deteriorate in the blink of a bloodshot eye, lighting the fuse on a battle of wits and mean-spirited pranks that provides Bad Neighbours with its flimsy premise.
Seth Rogen might have top billing on the film’s posters but it’s Zac Efron’s naked torso which scene-steals to the point of absurdity, reaching a delirious crescendo with some gratuitous topless modelling by the High School Musical heartthrob during a touchy feely coda.
In the spirit of gender equality, the script warrants a topless scene from leading lady Rose Byrne for a protracted gross-out gag about her first-time mother urgently needing to express breast milk to easy the pressure in her swollen lady cushions.
“Be a man and milk me!” she barks.
Lactose-intolerant audiences should avert their gaze.
Mac Radner (Rogen) and his wife Kelly (Byrne) have just welcomed a beautiful daughter into the world and they struggle to cope with the responsibilities of parenthood.
When the house next door goes up for sale and a fraternity led by president Teddy Sanders (Efron) and second-in-command Pete (Dave Franco) moves in, the Radners fear the worst.
They pay a visit to the new neighbours and politely ask Teddy to keep the noise down.
In return, the couple promises not to call the cops at the first sign of trouble but to approach Teddy to resolve any issues.
“A promise is a big thing for me,” he tells the Radners.
During a party, Mac and Kelly break their promise and dial 911. A neighbourhood cop (Hannibal Buress) turns up at the fraternity’s front door. Teddy is incensed and masterminds a suitable punishment for the Radners’ betrayal.
In retaliation, Mac and Kelly plot ways to force the dean, Carol Gladstone (Lisa Kudrow), to evict the students from their once peaceful community.
Bad Neighbours goes some way to besmirching Efron’s screen image as the wholesome, squeaky clean boy next door.
However, scriptwriters Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien provide the actor with a get-out clause so his character ultimately remains likeable, showing a sensitive side to one new member of the frat house (Craig Roberts) when he thinks no one else is looking.
Rogen has played a pot-smoking dude before and he gamely sheds his clothes for toe-curling scenes of coitus interruptus with Byrne.
Scenes inside the frat house, where Pete inspires devotion from pledges with a heartfelt speech (“We are the family you get to choose – and we don’t get divorced!”) are surprisingly tame despite the 15 certificate.