Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016) / Comedy
aka Bad Neighbours 2
MPAA Rated: R for crude sexual content including brief graphic nudity, language throughout, drug use and teen partying
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ike Barinholtz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein, Dave Franco, Selena Gomez, Jerrod Carmichael, Awkwafina, Elise Vargas, Zoey Vargas
Small role: Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Hannibal Burress, Kyle Mooney, Lisa Kudrow, Kelsey Grammer
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Screenplay: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O'Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Review published May 21, 2016
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is, in essence, a rehash of Neighbors, except with a sorority next door to the family who just wants peace and quiet, rather than a fraternity. It's not an exact copy, however, as the introduction of women into the mix does allow for some mild exploration into breaking gender-based double standards and commentary on the pressures that exist for many young women to conform to how male-dominated society would like them to be, i.e. sex objects. Not that films that have sociopolitical subtext automatically make them good films, but the utilization in Neighbors 2 manages to temper the misogyny that permeates most frat-house raunch-fests, and finds the humor in between the tug-of-war between crazy id-based sexism and overly high-minded political correctness.
Seth Rogen (Kung Fu Panda 3, The Night Before) and Rose Byrne (Spy, Annie) return as married couple Mac and Kelly Radner, set to find a bigger home in a nicer neighborhood to live in after Kelly finds that she has another baby on the way. After putting down for their new abode, they find a buyer for their current one, but it's still in escrow, which, overly simplified for the purpose of this film, means that the buyer can swing by anytime within thirty days to inspect the house and can back out of the deal if things aren't up to snuff. The problem: a new, unaffiliated sorority, Kappa Nu, has moved in to take over the empty home previously used by the fraternity next door, built mostly on the notion that, unlike other sororities that aren't allowed to throw parties where they serve alcohol, they will do all of the drinking, raving and weed smoking they want, just like their male counterparts in fraternities do, without the overhead of being treated like "hos" by so-called rape-y frat boys.
The Radners not only have the spirited and determined young women to contend with, but also the return of Teddy (Efron, Dirty Grandpa), the jobless former frat-house president who agrees to mentor the freshmen women how to make their sorority as successful as his former frat, in exchange for a much-needed place to live. First order of business is to set up the rush parties to being in the girls who are also going to bring in the revenue they need to keep the sorority afloat throughout the year. However, the Radners are hell-bent on ruining those parties until the escrow period is up, which means it's war once again between the family that wants serenity and the girls who want to party all the time.
Credited to five screenwriters, including the screenwriters of the original Neighbors, Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, along with director Nicholas Stoller (Zoolander 2, Sex Tape), plus the team of main star Seth Rogen and frequent improvisational think-tank collaborator Evan Goldberg (The Interview, This is the End), Neighbors 2 mostly overcomes its redundant plotting and silly contrivances by finding enough wrinkles of humor in the premise to amuse those typical Rogen fans, i.e. those primarily seeking a raunchy stoner comedy. The main object of the film is not to deliver a fulfilling story or rich character arcs, but rather to make you laugh at these silly characters and their foibles, and along these lines, it will likely be seen as successful for those within the target audience to come away feeling like the revisit is worthwhile. I won't say it will be seen as better than the first entry for most, but it does retain the same vibe and success rate in drawing out hearty guffaws, while the cast is definitely not content to just rest on the laurels of name recognition, earnestly going all out in making the comedy work.
That's not to say it always works, as the kitchen-sink approach to comedy leads to quite a bit of sloppy storytelling once all of the ideas and alternate scenes that don't play well to test audiences have been chopped down to a respectable 92-minute run time (indeed, the trailers contain quite a bit of footage that didn't make it into the final cut). A couple of the bodily-function gags are extremely gross, involving a bout of morning sickness during sex, womb-busting infants, babies playing with sex toys, and some very un-sanitary pads. These repulsive sight gags aren't intrinsically funny, but they do draw out instant reactions in audiences who will likely wince at what they've seen, then laugh at themselves for their reaction. A laugh is a laugh, whatever it takes, right? The same goes for the vastly over-mined use of weed for humor. Laughs can seemingly just be had merely by showing characters get baked mostly from younger audience members who relate, especially those who toked up prior to going to the theater. No need to do anything witty or clever with it when just someone taking a hit draws out low-hanging snickers.
However, outside of this, there are a number of funny moments for dim-bulb characters, and though the film lacks the underlying sweetness of the original in terms of what it means to finally embrace becoming an adult, it remains engaging enough purely as a glorified ninety-minutes of sketch ideas wrapped around a central plot hook. All in all, Neighbors 2 is a scattershot comedy that definitely won't be for every taste, but for those who enjoyed the first entry just for the laughs and cast, it's a superfluous but generally amusing effort that has a good sense of comedic timing. In other words, it's a half-baked idea for a follow-up that will likely sate fully baked audiences.
©2016 Vince Leo