Saturday 24 February 2018

Bad Neighbours 2 movie review: 'Women get the raw end of the stick in Hollywood comedies'

Zac Efron and Seth Rogen sporting their six packs in Bad Neighbours 2
Zac Efron and Seth Rogen sporting their six packs in Bad Neighbours 2

Chris Wasser

If at first you do succeed, give ‘em the same thing again. Bit clunky, that one, but hey, that’s the way they do things in Hollywood — especially when it comes to the funnies.


Call it a modus operandi; call it a sneaky way to earn a fast buck. Either way, every box-office conquering, goofball comedy eventually gets the sequel treatment. 21 Jump Street, Ride Along, Paul Blart: Mall Cop — the list goes on (and the films get worse).

Sometimes, it all works out just fine (Jump Street is now a bona-fide franchise, would you believe). Sometimes, it doesn’t (we don’t have enough time or space to compile a list).

Whatever the case, the second instalment is almost always a carbon copy of the original, with extra plot sprinkled on. Plus, they usually repeat the best gags from the first one. Bad Neighbours 2 is no exception.

A speedily assembled follow-up to 2014’s Bad Neighbours, a surprisingly enjoyable romp in which Zac Efron’s hard-drinking, head-wrecking fraternity crew set up shop in suburbia and went to war with the less-than-hip couple next door (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), BN2 tears up the happy ending of its predecessor (everyone made up) and hits the ground running for another vodka-splashed round of neighbourhood mayhem. More characters, more story, more everything.

But wait, there’s a twist. Let’s just excuse the fact that BN2 boasts the combined, er, talents of five screenwriters. It’s also sort of cheap-looking in places. Nevertheless, it’s the first comedy we’ve seen in yonks that actually has something of an important message at its centre. Which is that women usually get the raw end of the stick, not just at sleazy college parties, but also, in Hollywood comedies — and that s*** simply isn’t going to fly in 2016.

Enter the increasingly reliable Chloe Grace Mortez as Shelby, an 18-year-old college fresher who, frustrated with and, indeed, appalled by, the behaviour of both fraternity and sorority houses in America, decides to set up her own sorority party with the main goal being to, well, party.

No sleaze, no dopes, but lots and lots of weed-smoking and choons. All of which happens to take place in the house that Zac Efron’s Teddy (suffering something of a quarter-life crisis here) used to live.

A lost and lonely Teddy agrees to get in on the action, moving in with Shelby and her mates and showing them the ways of the force (ie. how to have as much fun as humanly possible). Oh, and Seth Rogen (Mac), Rose Byrne (Kelly) and their toddler, Stella, still live next door.

Mind you, they are having a bit of meltdown of their own, and young Stella seems to be obsessed with her mum’s pink vibrator, but it’s all good. In fact, Kelly is expecting the couple’s second child, and the family is in the final stages of selling their house – provided, of course, that nothing goes wrong, and the buyers aren’t scared off by, say, a gang of plastered teens running riot in the neighbourhood. You can see where this is going.

Yep, it’s another round of young people vs slightly older young people, and the results are surprisingly funny. Don’t even bother asking yourself why it is that only one household in the entire neighbourhood in which this film is set bothers to complain about those pesky college kids. Don’t even waste your time worrying about how a ripped Teddy finds the energy to go to the gym. What’s important is that there is, more or less, a semi-decent comedy at work here.

A ridiculously handsome and suitably cock-sure Efron channels his inner Rob Lowe (and, to an extent, Channing Tatum), putting his wonderful comic timing to use for another rib-tickling lesson in faux self-deprecation. He also removes his shirt a lot. Stand him next to a manic Rogen, and sparks fly.

Rose Byrne, meanwhile, rises above the both of ‘em. The laughs just about make it through to the second half, and though it really should be sharper (seriously, five bloody screenwriters, folks), it is, at least, encouraging to see that BN2 largely avoids the gross-out route, clocking in at a tidy 92 minutes, to boot.

Parties are thrown, plans are hatched, airbags are toyed with, families reach breaking point, and college kids eventually learn a few life lessons — it’s actually sort of grand.

Indeed, despite its relentless use of the word “party”, there is a sweet and, occasionally, charming side to all those d*** and tampon jokes. Listen, it could have been a lot worse. It could have been Ride Along 2.


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