Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloë Grace Moretz, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Writers: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
This is a film that I was really dreading. After the horrid, sordid experience that was Dirty Grandpa, I was in no mood to see another Zac Efron offering in his campaign to prove that he’s no longer the squeaky-clean Disney kid from High School Musical. While I thought the original Bad Neighbours had its moments, I felt that it lacked direction and discipline in its humour and that some of its gross-out elements came across as crass rather than funny. There was certainly potential for good comedy in the film but I only ever saw flashes of it in the semi-improvisational riffs between the actors. Since the cast had no solid writing or clear direction to work with, most of these riffs amounted to little more than the exhaustive throwing around of random gags. I was not looking forward to the prospect of watching two more hours of the same. Even if had enjoyed the first film, I still would’ve been concerned by the thought that I can probably count the number of successful comedy sequels that I’ve seen on one hand.
Some time has gone by since the events of Bad Neighbours and now Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) have decided to sell their home. However the prospective buyers decide to put their house on escrow for 30 days, meaning that they can drop by for a surprise inspection at any time and can opt to drop out of the deal if they find any problems. Meanwhile college freshman Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) has just joined the Phi Lamda sorority only to find that they are forbidden to throw their own parties on campus. Instead they must attend frat parties, which end up being perverse and depraved affairs marked by female objectification and sexual harassment. Therefore Shelby teams up with Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) to form their own sorority. The girls look at the house next door to the Radners where they meet Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) who, having recently been asked by his friend to move out of his apartment, agrees to help the sorority in exchange for residence. Afterwards it isn’t long before Kappa Nu’s parties start to aggravate the Radners and the two houses go to war with one another.
In short, this film is pretty much the same as its predecessor. Same gross-out humour, same ad-libbed banter between actors, and same abundance of shirtless scenes for Seth Rogen and Zac Efron. This time however the premise is gender-reversed. If you’re a fan of the original film then this is all good news. To me however it meant more drawn out riffing that doesn’t really go anywhere, more crass jokes that aren’t as funny as the filmmakers think they are, and more directionless humour that only manages to hit the mark on occasion. These films seem to think that cussing, vulgarity and slapstick alone are enough to generate laughs and so little of the humour is actually derived from either the characters or the plot. This time around however the film does introduce an unexpectedly sound feminist perspective as it outlines some of the sexism, both casual and perverse, that young women often undergo. It’s not exactly Mustang but it’s still more than I expected from this film.
For some viewers the cast alone may be enough to make this film work. Those who enjoy watching Seth Rogen quip the odd one-liner, make a whole bunch of weed jokes and show off his chubby physique will not be left wanting. Rose Byrne rarely ever disappoints and it is refreshing that the film allows the wife to be just as bad as the husband rather than a joyless stick in the mud. Zac Efron is by all means a charismatic and talented actor but, for whatever reason, he continues to make these trashy, red band comedies where he’s expected to do little more than spout expletives and provide eye candy. The girls in this film do have a bit more going for them than the guys did in the previous film in terms of character but that isn’t really saying much. Moretz does have her moments but she can do so much better than this film.
It’s simple really. If you liked Bad Neighbours and want more of the same then there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the sequel. If the former did nothing for you however then the latter has very little to offer. I’d probably rate this film a little higher than I would the original but I certainly wouldn’t call it a good film. Most of the jokes fell flat for me, the parts that some viewers might find uproarious were quite simply vulgar to me, and there was little the cast could do to save any of it. When I think back to Dirty Grandpa however and just imagine what this film could have been, I’m relieved that the film never tried to be more than a silly, coarse, unapologetic comedy. While I still don’t think it’s good, I also don’t think it’s without comedic merit. If crudeness, slapstick and shamelessness is what you’re looking for, then by all means enjoy.