“Neighbors 2 winds up being a pleasant comedy experience.”
The very thought of a sequel to Neighbors, the Seth Rogen and Zac Efron comedy from two summers ago, existing ostensibly gives the “unnecessary sequel” stigma a poster-child in the modern age. The successful comedy wasn’t even amongst the best comedies of that specific year, and probably would’ve always worked better as a standalone film.
However, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising isn’t ripe with the kind of explicit sexual content, rampant misogyny, and tired sight-gags one would expect from a film with such a title. Not only does Neighbors 2 not play by the “rules” of sexually explicit comedies, it has the desire to point out those rules and double-standards for women so much so that every time the characters start falling down the path of such conventions one or more characters have the audacity to call them out on it.
The film revisits Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), who are still living in the same house that was next to the fraternity run by Teddy (Zac Efron) and his brothers. Now, things have changed as everyone has gotten older. Teddy’s best friend Pete (Dave Franco) has come out as gay and his recent engagement to his boyfriend and subsequent forced eviction from their home has made Teddy question what his ultimate plan for life is now that college is in the rear-view mirror. Mac and Kelly, on the other hand, have enjoyed their humble livings since the frat’s departure and are on their way to expecting a second child.
They are also looking to sell their home, which is subjected to a 30-day escrow. The only thing standing in their way from a marketable home comes when college freshman Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her girlfriends Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) establish their own independent sorority “Kappa Nu” in the former frat-house. The decision comes at the guidance of Teddy, who helps them after their disillusionment with the restrictions in place on sororities that aren’t in place for fraternities.
Now, excusing the multitude of ways one needs to suspend disbelief for Kappa Nu to exist, Mac and Kelly have the same dilemma as before, just this time, they have a deadline for their new homeowners. With the help of their close friends and Teddy, once he bails on the girls, Mac and Kelly need to find a way to make the sorority move out or cease for thirty days until they can successful clean their hands of their current home. What unfolds, predictably, is an all out war between the two sides.
As stated, Neighbors 2 admirably goes against convention by making the female characters self-aware and cognizant of their potential to be sexually exploited not just in the film itself but in fraternity and sorority culture itself. A lot of the humor stems from Moretz, who is going on to be such an inspired and gifted young actress, rebelling and becoming her own person. Her sentiments and feelings, in addition, echo similar notions from those her same age. She knows what she wants to accomplish – creating an independent sorority free from the confines of allegedly sexist rules and one that can throw parties freely, like fraternities – but doesn’t quite know how to start or successfully manage her aspirations.
This provides Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising with a wonderful DIY kind of creativity that, while present in the first film, wasn’t as realized. This is a sloppy, increasingly chaotic war and it’s only made more absurd when you see just how well Rogen and Byrne go about it the second time around. Consider Rogen, especially, who came on the scene roughly nine years ago as the chubby stoner who couldn’t even handle having one child in Knocked Up or the responsibilities of being a moral cop in Superbad. Now, he has grown and adapted into a fun-loving, exuberantly spirited movie dad but keeps his brand of humor.
Neighbors 2 most certainly falls flat in a few cases, and for a comedy that predicates itself upon so much happening and so many antics occurring every moment (Mac and Kelly attempt to steal the girls’ marijuana they are selling to keep their house afloat in one highly energized scene, and the girls hijack the text messages between Mac and Kelly sending them on a goose chase in another), it’s something one more or less expects.
If you can tolerate admittedly excessive jokes about genitalia and take a great deal of the crudity for what it is, then Neighbors 2 winds up being a pleasant comedy experience. While inconsistently funny, there’s a remarkable consistency in moral tone and its willingness to recognize the common pitfalls of these sex comedies for the female characters, and while Neighbors 2 may not be a textbook example for how women should be portrayed in these kinds of comedies, it’s an admirable continuation of what American Pie more or less founded.