Director: Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron
Spoilers Within: No
Nicholas Stoller has never been a key player in comedy: each of his features ranges from the so-so Forgetting Sarah Marshall to the similarly plotted and sincerely less amusing The Five-Year Engagement. These films feel like a by-the-numbers attempt to crack the success that Judd Apatow has been awarded since his break into cinema in 2005, but time and again Stoller falters and instead creates watchable, but hugely forgettable fare.
Bad Neighbours 2 is markedly better than it’s predecessor, but the bar wasn’t set that high in the first place. This sequel eschews a large part of the frat-bro tedium that made Bad Neighbours so bland and doubles down on progressive forward-thinking, posing questions of gender inequality and enthusiastically facing the inherent misogyny that’s rife in both film and real-life. It’s commendable that this is part of such a widely released and broadly seen comedy, but Stoller and the writing team don’t let the situations speak for themselves, instead hammering home the punchlines that serve to undermine the social commentaries that they’ve done well enough to present. Hopefully, as with this years’ equivalently progressive Ghostbusters, this is the start of things to come, even when the problems undercut their strengths.
What’s encouraging is that few of the returning cast are wasted or over-written; Rogen and Byrne have a warm, truthful chemistry as the Radners, undergoing more neighbourly disputes with silver-tongued sharpness, and Efron continues with his fitting comedy timing, stealing some of the finer lines in the film with his bumbling anti-bro man-child. Additionally, the core trio of ‘Kappa Nu’ – Moretz, Feldstein and Clemens – carry the weight of the story and Hollywood’s attitude toward women with an assured competence, even when it’s Moretz who gets the most to do with their narrative.
If only the humour here were more consistent, and came from the interactions between characters more than the situations they find themselves in: frat and tailgate parties are fine, but neither are particularly funny in and of themselves. These circumstances are long-winded, commonplace and give very little comedic payoff, making these ‘set pieces’ much less memorable than intended. In all, it’s essentially the same film as before (though I genuinely struggle to remember any of its ancestor’s gags) with increased stakes and a meritorious approach to social acceptability. It’s just a shame it’s largely unfunny, even though that’s something I’ve come to expect from Nicholas Stoller and his co-writers.
- Grade: B-