Bad Neighbours, Bad Neighbours 2, Chloe Grace Moretz, Cinema, College, Comedy, Comedy Film, Dave Franco, Film, Film Review, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Fraternity, Knocked Up, Movie Review, Nicholas Stoller, Rose Byrne, Seth Rogan, Seth Rogen, Sorority, Students, Teddy Sanders, University, Zac Efron
“Bad Neighbours 2” is the follow-up to the successful first film in the franchise, directed by Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) and starring Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up”). After enjoying the first film for what it was – a funny but flawed comedy – I was eager to see what else Stoller could do with the same cast and characters, and I have to say that the answer is quite a lot. Whilst this movie hits a lot of the same beats as the first film, it does so in a charming and entertaining way, and I found it very amusing to watch. I actually preferred it to the original movie which is rare when it comes to comedy sequels.
Comedy is for the most part a subjective medium, so whilst I can criticise many of its individual aspects (most notably its pacing and the believability of its characters) I still believe that “Bad Neighbours 2” is a good movie because it made me laugh a lot. The comedic timing of Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, and Zac Efron was spot on, and the returning cast members seemed to have a great rapport.
Moreover, the best moments in the film weren’t shown on the trailer because they weren’t found in elaborate set pieces. My favourite moments were the unexpected ones in which we were given an insight into Teddy Sanders’ (Efron) mind-set, because the way that he reacted irrationally to the things that didn’t go his way was really funny to watch, and explained his actions not only in this movie but in the first film as well. Seeing him run away from his problems quite literally (and without shoes on) was hilarious, and his inability to cope with adult life was pure gold. Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) also had these surreal moments, as they attempted to reconcile their ridiculous and at times immature lifestyle with the fact that they were trying to build a family-friendly environment in which to raise their kids, and for me it was definitely these bizarre moments that made this film as entertaining as it was.
As in the first film, the story of “Bad Neighbours 2” revolves more around people struggling to find their place in society than it does college lifestyle, and the events which drive the film are based on the insecurities and inadequacies of the characters rather than obnoxious teens partying through the night. Of course, the college students do a lot of partying and they are oblivious to the needs of others, but they act how they act for understandable and well-established reasons.
The characters make mistake after mistake in an attempt to compensate for the fact that they are completely lost, and their increasingly absurd actions are a direct response to this fact. Whilst the film is filled with wacky moments, like a young girl carrying a dildo around as a toy, it also has clear themes which are present throughout, such as characters struggling to find their way and overreacting to their circumstances. (SPOILER ALERT) Teddy overreacts when he is asked to move out by his best friend, Pete (played by Dave Franco), Mac and Kelly overreact to finding out that a sorority has moved in next door by asking them to behave before establishing a friendly relationship, and Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) overreacts to the fact that Kappa Nu might lose their sorority house and thus decides to corner the weed market to pay the rent! These characters constantly react excessively to their problems, and their poor decision making is what makes the film as comical as it is.
These mistakes lead to a hilarious end, but whilst sensationalising events by having characters make blunders could be seen as a device to generate humour, I think it’s also a conscious and consistent decision that the writers made to have their characters be the architects of their own downfall. This highlights the fact that whilst the two sides may seem like complete opposites – the young party animals vs. the stuffy old parents – they face similar problems in character and the same internal battles each day in different forms.
I’m not trying to say that this is a ground-breaking movie or that it invites in-depth analysis, but rather that whilst it’s a crowd-pleasing comedy it also has smart enough writing and direction so that it remains funny whilst also creating relatable characters with a decent level of depth. This is something that doesn’t always happen with these types of comedic movies, so I personally found it refreshing. Having recently graduated from university and experiencing a version of Teddy and Shelby’s lifestyles for myself, (albeit a much more tame version given that I live in England where it’s considered rude to play music at 50% volume on your iPhone while you’re in the shower), I can relate to their problems and I can think of people that they remind me of, which obviously means that the jokes in the film are that much more effective.
There are a couple of issues with the film, most notably the fact that Shelby and her sorority aren’t given enough screen time and are therefore not the compelling antagonists that Teddy and his fraternity were. Her motivation for acting the way that she does is far more opaque than Teddy’s was in the first movie, and she talked about her issues a lot more which meant that she couldn’t display her emotion in a subtle or interesting way. I like Moretz as an actress, but her character wasn’t particularly inspired.
Moreover, some of the things that she and her sorority did were incredibly serious and would’ve cost Mac and Kelly a lot of money that they really couldn’t afford to lose. This is an issue that the writers must have been aware of, but hoped that the audience would ignore. This is understandable to a degree, but I personally found it tough to reconcile the fact that the couple would have to replace many of their possessions with the fact that they had a baby on the way and a new house to pay for.
Nevertheless, “Bad Neighbours 2” is about as compelling as a comedy sequel gets. It was funny, well-written, and featured solid performances from the entire cast, so I have few complaints. I would recommend it providing that you aren’t easily offended, and I think that it really cements Zac Efron as a good comedic actor.