Movie Review: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Release Date: 5/20/2016
Studio: Universal Pictures
Running Time: 92 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content including brief graphic nudity, language throughout, drug use and teen partying.
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Writers: Andrew J. Cohen, Evan Goldberg, Brendan O'Brien, Seth Rogen, Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloë Grace Moretz, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz
It isn't easy being a comedy sequel. For every 22 Jump Street, there are 5 Horrible Bosses 2's. In 2014's Neighbors, a newlywed family (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) was pitted against the fraternity next door (led by Zac Efron). The movie was a big hit, making $270 million at the worldwide box office on a budget of $18 million. A witty comedy that mixed raunchy humor with insights about transitioning from college to adulthood, Neighbors deserved its success. Exactly two years after the hit movie opened, a sequel bringing director Nicholas Stoller and the cast back has landed with Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.
Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) are preparing to sell their home and move into a bigger one to support their second daughter on the way. Meanwhile, defeated former neighbor, ex-frat leader Teddy (Efron), is having a tough time finding his place in the world after the previous movie. He can't get a job due to his criminal record, and his former fraternity brothers are all moving on. His best friend and roommate, Pete (Dave Franco), becomes engaged to his boyfriend and asks Teddy to move out. What is poor, homeless, going through a "quarter-life crisis" Teddy to do?
Enter freshman sorority girl Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her friends Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein). Uncomfortable with the sexist rules that sororities can't have parties, but fraternities can, the girls pool their money together to start their own - in the vacated house next to Mac and Kelly. Teddy agrees to be the girls' mentor to get revenge against his former neighbors, whose home is under a 30-day escrow. If the new tenants see that a sorority lives next door, then they won't buy the house. After Shelby and her sorority sisters kick Teddy out for being "too old," he teams up with Mac and Kelly to get rid of another noisy set of neighbors.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising hits many of the same plot beats as its predecessor, trading a fraternity for a sorority. All of the actors from the earlier film return, from Mac and Kelly's best friends Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) and Paula (Carla Gallo) to the briefly-seen Dean Carol Gladstone (Lisa Kudrow). But familiarity is not a burden like it was for The Hangover Part II. The crew is aware of what made the first movie a hit, and they find a way to allow us to spend more time with the characters while carefully avoiding a sense of déjà vu. By inverting the genders of the rowdy neighbors, Neighbors 2 touches upon 21st-century feminism and the bond of female friendships. Shelby and her friends start a sorority so that they can engage in the same behavior that the "rapey" fraternities do: drugs, booze and non-stop partying (activities verboten at the campus sorority, led by Selena Gomez in a cameo). In a peculiar choice, however, little light is shed upon the Adonis-like Teddy living in a house full of teenage girls (in one of the sequel's funniest scenes, he joins the others girls in sobbing at The Fault in Our Stars on "movie night").
Neighbors 2 is as good as the first Neighbors. The movies are similar but not so much that the sequel feels like a Xerox copy. Rogen, Byrne, and Efron go knee-deep in the antics again, and Moretz displays a better knack for comedy than she has in previous movies. Like its predecessor, Neighbors 2 tosses plenty of crude jokes at the audience (Mac and Kelly allow their 2-year-old daughter to play with a pink dildo by dressing it as a princess) but doesn't forget that the characters are people too. Why can't all raunchy comedies be this intelligent?