House fight is no knockout
Seth Rogen. Picture: Supplied

Bad Neighbours (M) 3.5 stars
Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne
Directed by Nicholas Stoller

The refusal of men to embrace adulthood has been the great subject of American comedy of the past decade, culminating in the so-called bromances more often than not produced and/or directed by Judd Apatow, with Seth Rogen as the reigning clown prince.

So it's pleasing to see Nicholas Stoller playing with and examining that legacy in Bad Neighbours, in which Rogen has been cleverly cast as a former party boy who now has a job, a home, a wife (Rose Byrne) and a baby and who goes to war with a frat house that moves in next door.

When we first meet the Radners they're struggling with the responsibilities and drudgery of parenthood, captured amusingly in the opening scene in which they attempt to have sex - "It's happening!" declares Rogen's desperate Mac - which goes limp when the smiling baby refuses to look away.

And their plans for a night out with their hard-partying friends fall just as flat, with the couple falling down exhausted while packing all the baby equipment to take with them.

So when a frat house headed by Zac Efron's hunky Ted Sanders moves in next door: "That guy is the sexiest guy I have ever seen. He looks like something a gay guy designed in a laboratory," says Mac - their response is to play it cool, to act as if they are down with the kids.

Their first reasonable request to turn down the music results in them being invited to the party, with Mac joyfully regressing to his beer-swilling, pot-smoking, rubbish- talking days and Kelly having the teenaged girls sighing at the story of her engagement and marriage.

However, when the softly, softly approach fails and the parties get louder and louder, Mac calls the police, triggering a war that starts out moderately - the couple flood the basement and the boys counter by making moulds of their penises and selling them - then becomes really nasty.

There are plenty of hilarious, if utterly implausible, scenes in Bad Neighbours - in what universe would women hand over hard cash to buy a replica of the genitals of super-dork Christopher Mintz- Plasse - culminating in a wince- inducing slapstick sequence in which Teddy and his bros booby- trap Mac and Kelly's home with motor vehicle airbags (thankfully, the baby doesn't try to snuggle up on one).

But like so many of these Apatow- inspired comedies, Bad Neighbours wants to encourage emotional growth at the same time as celebrate the man-child antics, to have us laugh at the horny high jinks of the frat house and have Mac and Kelly look longingly back to a time of freedom and youthful energy yet reveal it to be idiotic. It can be done but it takes a more sophisticated movie than this one to pull it off.

What we end up with is a bizarre scene at the end of a raucous comedy full of goofball pop culture references, such as the Robert De Niro party with nods to Taxi Driver, Meet the Fockers and (wrongly) Scent of a Woman, in which Teddy is forced to ponder the emptiness of existence and his lack of a future.

Bad Neighbours pulls in several directions at once but, as sheer crowd-pleasing entertainment, it is held together by the force of its battle of wills, with Byrne taking on the role of tiger mother and stealing the movie from the guys.

How much more fun the movie would have been if Mac had encouraged Kelly to seduce Teddy to stop the partying and, in turn, been seduced by him.

But that would have been a grown-up movie and appealing only to those who yearn for a modern Graduate.

The West Australian

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