We've all been there. At some stage of our lives, we've lived next door to neighbours that we didn't quite get on with. Young couple Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen and Byrne) – living quietly in the suburbs with a baby girl (who steals each and every scene she is in) – find their world turned upside down when the worst possible neighbours, a college fraternity, move in next door.
The frat is run by Efron's Teddy Sanders, a lad's lad and party boy who just doesn't want to grow up. To him, college is all about a good time and nothing more. At first, Mac and Kelly try to get along with the new neighbours, popping in to party with them. But the parties just seem to go on and on, and after a few sleepless nights with a screaming baby take their toll, they call the police to ask the guys next door to keep the noise down. Bad move. A battle of revenge between the two households ensues, and each prank and act of sabotage get more and more ridiculous, gross and downright dangerous.
Bad Neighbours (known simply as Neighbors in the US) is not big and it's not clever, but it's very, VERY funny. Rogen has made a career out of this style of "stoner" comedy – see Knocked Up, Superbad, Observe and Report, Pineapple Express and last year's This Is the End for other examples. He's wonderful at playing the charming schlub, the slightly overweight, unkempt ordinary joe who is everybody's funny best mate. He's brought his A-game to Bad Neighbours, as we've come to expect – he really is one of the best comic actors working today. Surprising, though, is Byrne. We KNOW she can act, but we didn't know that she could be THIS funny. And it's also delightful to see her being allowed to play an Australian in a Hollywood film, and keeping her own accent. How long since we've heard THAT on film? (My guess is that we have to go all the way back to 2003's The Night We Called It a Day.) And while it may seem a strange pairing on paper, on screen Rogen and Byrne work a treat, bring oodles of charm and chemistry to their roles.
The real standout here is Efron. Long thought to be nothing but a pretty-boy Disney prince, the man can act, and how. His Teddy is a finely-crafted character, with a charming front hiding a rather sinister control freak. And he's ably assisted by frat colleage Franco, his bromantic partner in crime. Director Stoller – last seen helming The Five-Year Engagement and cowrting a couple of Muppets movies – clearly has a fine understanding of what makes a comedy work, and he gives Bad Neighbours his all. The film is quite perceptive about the themes of brotherhood, relationships and becoming an adult, but above all, it's hysterically funny. And isn't that basically what we all demand from a comedy?