A young couple, suffering from arrested development, are forced to live next to a fraternity house after the birth of their newborn baby.
It’s been ten years since Anchorman – quickly followed by The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad – when Apatow first ascended his throne atop a kingdom of slacker frat-pack comedy, with court jesters including the likes of Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill (now multi Oscar-nominated, albeit most recently in a role in which he’s heavily drugged up and wanking at pool parties – ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’, etc), Jason Segal, Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Bill Hader and Paul Rudd, and the oft-overlooked damsels in distress (note: irony of the phrase intended to convey the trivialisation of a woman’s role in most of his films) Kirsten Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Mann and Rose Byrne. And of course, there’s McLovin – though it’s currently unclear what role he has in this metaphor – let’s just stick with McLovin now for ease.
He’s exerted such influence on the genre that he has created his own template. His name will probably enter the OED as an adjective (‘How was the film?’ ‘Oh it was Apatowingly funny…’), a verb (‘They Apatow-ed the hell out of it!’) and a noun (It was just classic Apatow). Such is his domination.
But things are changing. Subtle things. The characters are inevitably drawn older, they talk about it as well in that quasi-refreshingly honest observational-comedy way; they love the smell of coffee grains, they like brunch, they like tomato gardens and shell-shaped soap bars. But, with age, they certainly haven’t matured.
It’s not bad by any means, they’ve just Apatowed the hell out of it.
It says a lot that King Judd doesn’t even write, direct or exec-produce Bad Neighbours and it’s left to alumnus Nick Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him To The Greek) to take the helm, and it makes little difference. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play grown ups, so to speak, with a newborn child, investing their savings into a nice house in an idyllic neighbourhood. They spend their days dressing the baby up as characters from popular prime-time TV shows and conversing with their “past our peak” musings. It’s blissful. That is, of course, until Zac Efron leads a fraternity from the local university into the vacant property next door and becomes the Bad Neighbours of the film’s title. Parties ensue and, after attempting and failing to solve the problem on the students’ level, Rogen and Byrne plot to restore their peace.
Byrne and Rogen are a good double act and Efron once again reinforces his status as a bonefide leading man. There are nice cameos for Lisa Kudrow and Submarine star Craig Roberts (as ‘AssJuice’). And the script is funny. It’s just that everything seems a little bit too familiar; the slacker humour, the glorification of a stoner culture, the gross-out jokes – this time featuring breast milk and penis casting (as in molding rather than selecting actors based on their genitals).
It all seems a bit too templated, and there’s only so far you can go within a template. Sure, it does the job, it fulfils the Apatow comedy checklist but it’s too restrained, it’s too much of a copy, a duplication, a replica. There Bad Neighbours will sit forgotten, alongside Role Models, This is 40, Dewey Cox and countless others, filed on the Apatow DVD shelf between Anchorman 2 and Bridesmaids. It’s not bad by any means, they’ve just Apatowed the hell out of it.