Bad Neighbours 2 (Cinema Review)

15 – 92mins – 2016


 

SORORITY ROW

Now in their mid-20s, the bros of Delta Psi Beta have grown up, carving out successful careers and happy relationships. All, that is, except for former frat leader Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), who feels lost and lonely in the “adult” world. Coasting in a retail job and kicked out of his recently-engaged best friend’s spare room, Teddy is drawn back to the lifestyle in which he excelled: agreeing to mentor a newly established sorority of alternative, free-spirited sisters who just so happen to have rented the house next to Teddy’s old adversaries, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne).

With 2014’s Bad Neighbours grossing a remarkable $270million from a modest $18million budget, a sequel was inevitable. And here returning director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and The Night Before team stick to the age old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Because Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (as it is titled in the US) not only repeats the very same ‘family versus frat’ plot, it also mines the same jokes and story beats from two years ago.

So we get more of Seth Rogen’s stoner humour (because all conscientious young fathers have a lounge littered with glass bongs), more outrageously inconsiderate party antics which every other house on the block seemingly has no objection to, more over-egged generation gap ribbing, more gratuitous opportunities to ogle Zac Efron’s abs and more awkward talky sex scenes between the “old couple” who really aren’t that old or out of touch at all.

Likeable Teddy’s implementation into the ‘battle’ is the only nifty touch, because everybody knows a college hot shot who peaked too soon, even if his initial antagonism toward Mac and Kelly feels a little out of place given the resolution scene at the end of the first film.

While there is a worthy message in Shelby’s (Chloë Grace Moretz) Kappa Kappa Nu plot about breaking from stringent (possibly even sexist?) rules and traditions and finding yourself at college, it’s a shame that any grand life lesson is sabotaged by the clichéd route in which the film reaches it. Namely: via weed, booze, flaunting your body and destroying furniture.

But then platitudes are hardly surprising in a film so desperate to replicate a winning formula that it goes to the effort of making “mama” Kelly pregnant again for no discernible plot reason than to give Mac and his wife more ammunition to be peeved at teenagers being teenagers. You won’t sit stony-faced throughout – there are some bad taste belly laughs to be had from Bad Neighbours 2 – it’s just a shame you’ve seen it all before – oily pecs and all.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars

Advertisements

Dark Places (DVD Review)


15 – 108mins – 2015


KAN OF WORMS

Charlize Theron heads up a thoroughly sullen cast who all play world weary compassion-vacuums in this competently plotted but grim miscarriage of justice thriller – which left any thrills behind on the page. Adapted from Gillian Gone Girl Flynn’s bestselling 2009 novel, it is telling that this lesser film was shot before but quietly slipped out after David Fincher’s superior conversion lit up the silver screen two years ago.

Having witnessed – and been the sole survivor of – a home invasion which saw her mother and sisters brutally murdered in 1985, Kansas City dweller Libby Day (Theron) has grown into a jittery and jaded mess of an adult. It was her questionable testimony at just 8 years old which saw her older brother (Corey Stoll) imprisoned for the crime, but now a group of true-crime enthusiasts are dredging up the past in an attempt to overturn what they consider a wrongful verdict, causing Libby to re-evaluate her memories of that tragic night.

Flitting between then and now as light is shone upon the infamous case by Nicholas Hoult’s investigative nosey parkers “The Kill Club”, it is instantly obvious that Libby’s brother is not the murderer – not that the responsively-ambiguous teenage rebel (played by Tye Sheridan in flashbacks) does much to help clear his name (or garner sympathy) as some truly disturbing charges are levelled at him.

This lack of energy is common throughout the cast, as Christina Hendricks barely registers any of the horrors that surround her as the Day’s floundering matriarch. Theron, meanwhile, plays haunted Libby as a solemn cow quick to snap. You understand why she is how she is, but it is hard to like someone who refuses to let anyone get within five paces.

As the title suggests, Dark Places is pitch black in both subject matter and tone. Slaughter, criminal injustice, teenage pregnancy, broken families, child abuse, drug addicts and Satanism are not the cheeriest of subjects in their own right, but when compounded into a slow-reveal mystery narrative, the bleakness and lack of pace do not do each other any favours. As the not-substantial runtime ticked by, I found myself all the more often checking the time and begging for a ray of light to brighten this uncomfortable and morbid affair.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars