NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING ½
R, 91 mins.
2016, R, 91 mins.
Seth Rogen as Mac Radner / Rose Byrne as Kelly Radner / Zac Efron as Teddy Sanders / Chloë Grace Moretz as Shelby / Kiersey Clemons as Beth / Selena Gomez as Phi Lambda President Madison / Beanie Feldstein as Nora / Dave Franco as Pete / Ike Barinholtz as Jimmy / Carla Gallo as Paula / Elise Vargas as Stella
Directed by Nicholas Stoller / Written by Evan Goldberg, Andrew J. Cohen, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen and Brendan O'Brien
NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING is a sequel that strains credulity through and through and begs the question as to the necessity of its own existence.
With the success
of the first rowdy college frat house comedy from 2014, a sequel seemed
positively inevitable. As far
as direct follow-ups go, NEIGHBORS 2 is pretty routine
and strains very little away from the established premise of its
antecedent. If anything, it
ostensibly appropriates the setup and events of NEIGHBORS,
retools them here and there, and passes itself off as a new film.
The conflict that the hapless married couple find themselves
embroiled in here is pretty much 100 per cent duplicated from the last
outing, albeit with a bit of
gender reversal (more on that in a bit).
Overall, NEIGHBORS 2
is on pure autopilot.
Yet, as an engine
designed to deliver laughs, there’s simply no denying that
this sequel is frequently uproarious.
Where it lacks in originality and a willingness to take the
characters and established situations from the first film in
new directions, NEIGHBORS 2 gets considerable mileage out
of its very game cast, all of whom seem hyper self-aware that their
characters are implausibly going through the exact same hellish situation
again. The film lives and
breathes on the perversity of its central neighborly conflict between
adults (that manage to behave like naïve children half the time) and
rambunctious and party animal teenagers that just want to have some good
ol’ college fun. Considering
how bloody recycled the whole enterprise feels, NEIGHBORS 2 still wrings up ample laughs and delivers on promises of sustained
and inspired silliness.
Rogen and Rose Byrne return as Mac and Kelly respectively, whom are now
expecting their second baby and have moved on the from nightmarish war
they waged with alpha frat boy Teddy (Zac Efron).
The couple seems content and happy, but they are dealt with some
newfound stress in having to sell their old home (that was ground zero for
their battle with Teddy’s next door fraternity) in order to afford their
newer and larger one (now, why the couple didn’t conditionally sell
their current home before purchasing their new one is something the script
never fully explains). They
do find buyers that want to take the property, but it’s in escrow, which
means that the buyers have a month to back out of the sale, no questions
asked, if they find anything wrong with the neighborhood or home.
With Teddy and his frat posse a distant memory, Mac and Kelly
feel in the clear…
It appears that the same house that Teddy and his hedonistic clan
once occupied is now on the radar of college freshmen Shelby (Chloe Grace
Moretz) and her pals Nora (Beanie Feldstein) and Beth (Kiersey Clemons),
who discovered – gasp! – that the first college sorority that they
wanted to be a part of…doesn’t allow heavy partying.
Because of some actual and deplorably sexist and archaic loophole
(it exists, Google it), college sororities in the US are not allowed to
throw parties with alcohol…but male fraternities are exempt from this.
Faster then you can say “WTF?!” Shelby and her new besties
decide that they deserve to be just as liberated and free to get high and
drunk at their college home as their male counterparts.
So, the girls set their sights on – yup – the very same house
that was Teddy’s base of fraternity operations.
Dubbing their sorority as Kappa Nu, Shelby’s vision is to have
her newfound rental home be a haven for college girls everywhere to have
fun and not be subjugated to having to go to the (their words) “rapey”
climate of frat parties.
how does Teddy figure into all of this?
He’s been down on his luck since finishing college.
All of his former frat pals have moved on, whereas he seems
hopelessly adrift. He initially decides to help Kappa Nu as a form of revenge
against Mac and Kelly’s actions from the first film, but when things go
south for him with Shelby and her girl empowered squad, he turns to Mac
and Kelly to seek revenge against Kappa Nu…and to ensure that the couple
can escape their escrow predicament unscathed.
Much as was the case with the first NEIGHBORS, Efron shows how
remarkably adept he is at comedy, and some of this sequel’s biggest
laughs are at the expense of his petty ignorance towards his own inherent
chauvinism. The manner Efron is able to score huge laughs when
incredulously responding to Shelby’s claims that his former frat antics
were rampantly sexist is an endless source of giddy fun.
He’s also a loveable dope despite his past indiscretions that
can’t seem to understand (for example) why he’s at a downhill, low
respect job at Abercrombie & Fitch (“I had to cover for my boss
because he had to go to his prom” he pitifully acknowledges at one
point). I like how NEIGHBORS
2 continues the trend of not making Teddy a hostile degenerate, but rather
a misguided dude with actual feelings and regrets.
and Byrne together again remains an equally strong source of guffaws, even
though Rogen is really, really going through the performance paces yet
again as a clueless in-over-his-head reefer addicted man-child that delivers
verbal zingers aplenty and engages in sight gags revolving around his
portly girth (yadda-yadda, been there-done that).
The mousy, but delightfully potty-mouthed Byrne once again has fun with her
increasingly agitated wife, and her back-and-forth interplay with Rogen is
once again spot-on. Intriguingly,
NEIGHBORS 2 has more up its sleeve than expected when it
comes to Moretz’s character and her struggles, which has a refreshingly
engaging feminist slant. The
film may be awash in gross out pratfalls and rampant lewdness that’s
typical of its college party genre, but it has legitimate things to say
about the predatory nature of frat parties, not to mention how modern day
college “standards” don’t afford female students the same privileges
and rights as males (a shocking revelation that even the characters in the
film recognize and deal with). Even
when NEIGHBORS 2 feels like a lazy rehash at times of its better
predecessor, it nevertheless adds an unexpected thematic dimension of
millennial girls feeling rightfully disenchanted and angry about an
inherently misogynistic system that they desire to fix.
Granted, this serious subtext is sometimes lost in some the film’s tasteless humor, with many of the jokes pushing the boundaries of taste (the sorority’s choice of one particular unhygienic weapon against their neighbors is pretty nauseating). However, NEIGHBORS 2 makes up for those puerile moments with others that elicit hearty chuckles that don’t engage a gag reflex (like the triumphant return of automobile airbags being used by Mac and Teddy during one tense scene, or a later one when Teddy, Mac, and Kelly argue over the correct spelling of the word sorority to uproarious effect). In closing, though, I just don’t know what to do with this film. It creates a real pickle for a film critic. Is NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING a worthy and innovative sequel? No. Is it funny? Yes…and it made me laugh a lot. Is it worthy of a $12 theatrical ticket? Not really. Is it worthy of a rental later? Sure. Two and half stars, in retrospect, seems fair.
I almost gave the film an extra half a star for the scene involving Mac
showing the dimwitted Teddy how to boil eggs.
Mac tells him that they get hard when boiled, which doesn’t make
much sense to the confused Teddy. By his estimation, why does pasta get soft when boiled, but
eggs get hard? Mac wants to
instantly respond with spiteful incredulity...but he's forced to ponder
Teddy's logic for a minute.
Teddy may be on to something.