(Bad) Neighbo(u)rs *** (out of five)
Full of endless genuinely funny lines, most tossed off and probably improvised, Neighbors, called Bad Neighbours in markets that have grown up with the Aussie soap Neighbours and which enjoy the letter ‘u’, and not a remake of the John Belushi / Dan Aykroyd Neighbors (but somewhat inspired by it), is a loose, free-wheeling, cameo-studded jaunty romp that achieves its single, noble aim: to make you laugh.
Rose Byrne again proves herself the funniest of the new batch of Hollywood comedy queens, this time allowed to play in her own, Australian accent (as Rebel Wilson should always be allowed). Seth Rogan plays her husband in his Seth Rogan way; they play parents of a toddler whose lives are upset when a frat house moves in next door. Disputes, power games and gags follow, a lot of it to do with sex, drugs and booze.
The meta-conceit of 1981’s Neighbors was that Belushi played the “straight” neighbour and Ackroyd played the freaky interloper. Here a similar gag has Rogan as the family man and Zac Efron as the leader of the frat house. It’s not the same: Rogan and Efron aren’t established as a team, Efron has already played the bad boy, and Rogan doesn’t by any means play it straight. But they’re both good in their roles, and Efron’s clean-cut, all-American look works very well as a frat boy. Dave Franco is very good as Efron’s aide-de-camp and Lisa Kudrow makes a meal of the college Dean. But it’s Byrne who steals the movie. She is one funny actor, bringing fresh stylings to every film she does.