One of the rare successful comedy sequels.
I wasn’t a big fan of the first Neighbors. I found it to be an uneven, flat film that was unfunny more often than not. Needless to say, I didn’t have very high hopes for a sequel. Comedy sequels are almost always terrible, and a sequel to Neighbors felt especially unneeded. To my surprise, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising surpassed the original in just about every way, giving us a funnier, smarter film.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising picks up a few years after the first film. Mac and Kelly are preparing to sell their old house in preparation for their upcoming second child. They have already purchased their new home, and have a buyer lined up for their old house. Unfortunately, Mac and Kelly are subjected to a 30-day escrow agreement, where the buyers of their house are free to back out at any moment.
Meanwhile, Shelby (Chloe-Grace Moretz), a college freshman, is attempting to join a sorority in order to make friends. Soon enough Shelby comes to the realization that the current sororities operate in a system that objectifies women, and worse, disallows sororities from throwing their own parties. Not wanting to subject herself to the degrading parties that exemplify rape culture thrown by fraternities, Shelby starts Kappa Nu, with the help of her new-found friends, and moves into the fraternity house from the first film, right next to Mac and Kelly. Mac and Kelly then must try and stop the sorority from throwing any crazy parties, so that they don’t scare of the buyers of their house.
Whilst Neighbors was a pretty straightforward college party film, Neighbors 2 has more of a biting edge in its approach to comedy. Much of the humor in the film stems from its social commentary on the deep rooted sexism in society, as it observes all of the double standards that women experience in America. When Ike Barinholtz’s character Jimmy proudly proclaims “Men’s Rights!” to Mac who offers a stern but hilarious “No, fuck you”, it’s clear what side this movie takes as it examines millennial feminism.
That isn’t to say it’s particularly high brow or anything, quite the contrary. The film opens with Kelly (Rose Byrne) vomiting all over Mac (Seth Rogen) whilst they are having sex, revealing she is pregnant. Oh boy, I thought to myself as I prepared for an hour and a half of groan inducing gross out comedy. Thankfully, for the most part the film strayed away from that.
Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne continue their great chemistry from the first film into this one, as they both offer hilarious performances as grown adults struggling with the question of whether or not they are good parents, while at the same time entering a sort of prank war with a bunch of raunchy, rebellious 18-year-old girls.
The standout performance in the film was once again Zac Efron as Teddy. Teddy has been lost since the end of Neighbors, as all of his friends have grown up and matured past college, and are starting their careers and getting married. Teddy is aimless, and he tries to find meaning for himself by helping Kappa Nu get their footing as a sorority, and eventually switching sides to help Mac and Kelly, hoping they will value him. Teddy could have easily been annoying, but Efron has such great comedic chops that he is able to pull off the character really well. He has fantastic comedic timing throughout, and was usually the one who garnered the biggest laughs from me.
Moretz gave a hilarious and convincing performance as Shelby, as did Kiersey Clemons as Beth, one of the co-founders of Kappa Nu. Less successful in their performances however were the rest of the members of Kappa Nu. Neighbors 2 tried to develop a similar dynamic between the sorority sisters as they had between the fraternity brothers in the first film, but it didn’t really work. It felt too derivative of the first film, almost as if the film was trying to hard.
Which brings me to one of my major complaints with the film. Like a great number of other comedy sequels, at times Neighbors 2 falls into the trappings of “been there, done that” where they throw in a bunch of jokes and references ripped from the original film. While the first nod to the air bag gag is legitimately funny, the film continues to harp on that joke again and again. By the third time an air bag joke was made, I found myself rolling my eyes, wishing for the film to get back to original material.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is held back by its heavy reliance on self referential humor, as well as it’s abundance of jokes that fall flat. However, there is still a lot of great humor to be found in the film, and I surprisingly found myself having a lot of fun with it. And hey, it’s got a message that I can get behind, and that’s pretty cool too.