BAD NEIGHBOURS 2 (Universal)
Dir. Nicholas Stoller, Script. Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloe Grace Moretz
Plot: Rogen and Byrne’s attempts to move out of their home are put in danger by the appearance of Moretz’s new sorority next door.
A couple of years ago, Bad Neighbours turned out to be one of the comedy successes of the summer, making a ton of money and earning relatively decent reviews along the way. With its inevitable sequel, the Universal franchise surprises yet again, with a film that actually improves on the original, not only going further than the last one did with its humour, but adding a couple of really good new elements and a surprising focus on deeper themes. However, Bad Neighbours 2 is definitely of the same formula and style of the first movie, and it probably won’t convert the original’s naysayers.
The same core production team has returned for the comedy sequel, with director Nicholas Stoller taking on writing duties with the all-star duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the men behind Superbad and Pineapple Express who prompted North Korea’s greatest threat to American liberty. As you’d expect with two guys who thought a CGI-depiction of a leader (whose subjects hero-worship him as a kind of deity) having his head blown up, the humour of Bad Neighbors 2 very much runs on a tightrope. While some gags, including a running joke that the child of Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne’s hash-fuelled matrimony confuses her mother’s vibrator with an actual toy, fail to land, there are a couple who push the envelope just enough to get that “THEY WENT THERE?!” reaction.
Rogen also does pretty well in this, although now we’ve become so accustomed to him playing these roles, was that ever in doubt? Rogen has now seemingly become a generation’s blunt-hitter, and his material here really doesn’t stray from Rogen’s brand. Series newcomer Chloe Grace Moretz (last seen getting oddly aroused in Sony’s young-adult calamity The 5th Wave) is energetic as a sort of party-rights-activist for females, assisted by Teddy Sanders, the existentially lost young adult that is absolutely the best product of Zac Efron’s recent abtacular resurgence (before you ask: the holy washboard chest does get unleashed). Efron is a terrific comic actor. He has impeccable timing, a way of making absolutely everything he says humorous in some way, and he actually makes his character the most fleshed out I’ve seen in many a Hollywood comedy. When Teddy hits a crossroads, Efron hasn’t looked as conflicted in years. You half expect him to dance around an empty golf course and stare at his yearbook photo in the reflection of a lake.
The direction of this sequel is also really good: I personally thought that director Nicholas Stoller’s work on the first Bad Neighbours movie was at best uninspired, and at worst genuinely painful, with his penchant for seizure-inducing neon and scatterbrained editing proving difficult to view at times. However, while the parties are still fluorescent nightmares, they’ve been toned down a bit, and in one scene in particular, the feeling of violation you get from it actually makes a certain part of the film really tick. Stoller plays with a surprising amount of themes, such as sexism and rape culture, and Stoller does it with an impressive nimbleness. In fact, Stoller allows the whole of the film to play quite loosely, and Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien’s snappy screenplay benefits tremendously. And just to cap it all off, the visual comedy is top notch, with one particular sequence at a tailgate having the visual feel of SPECTRE‘s dramatic opening, but the intense camerawork and editing is made hilarious by what the whole chase is actually all for.
The pacing does feel a bit off, and while I feel like the film’s loose structure does help it in some ways, it definitely hinders it in others, and Bad Neighbours 2 does occasionally sacrifice its momentum for the sake of a gag. The talents of Rose Byrne are also really wasted here, with her character having almost nothing to do. And, as most of our current generation of Hollywood comedies seem to have, there’s a big reliance on needless cameos, with most of them completely pointless and, worse, not funny in the slightest. But for the most part, Bad Neighbours 2 is a great sequel in that fans of the original will be massively satisfied with this picture. It plays to the strengths of its stars, Efron especially, and while its comedy is sometimes hit and miss, the hits are home runs.
BEST WATCHED: Good for cinemas, but I’d wait to rent it for a Saturday night in with the squad.
The Rogen-and-Goldberg train’s next stop is Sausage Party, a gloriously adult spoof of Pixar-style animated films in which a number of food items realize they’re about to be eaten and, therefore, killed by the humans who bought them. Zac Efron is next rolling up in Warner Bros. rom-com Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates, with Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza joining him. If you suffer from Rose Byrne withdrawal symptoms, you only have to wait till the 18th of May for X-Men: Apocalypse, for which she reprises her role from First Class as CIA Agent Moira McTaggart. Moretz has no new films scheduled as of yet, but she has signed on for Universal’s version of The Little Mermaid, which is currently being fast-tracked into development at the studio.