Review: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
PLOT: After surviving frat guys as neighbors in the first film, Mac and Kelly Radner discover that sorority sisters can be even more terrifying. Thankfully, the two discover an unlikely partnership with an old enemy, one that may just save them from the hard-partying girls next door.
REVIEW: There was something really special about the pairing of Zac Efron and Seth Rogen in the 2014 comedy NEIGHBORS. When the sequel was announced, it seemed a difficult task to bring back the magic of the first. And while this is slightly true, it really doesn’t matter because NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING is pretty damn hilarious. While there is certainly a predictability factor considering we’ve seen shades of this before, it helps that the characters are as endearing as they were before. The whole concept of growing up and becoming an adult is still a main force - this time Zac Efron’s frat bro Teddy Sanders is even suffering from it - but there is also a slight feminist statement. Don’t let that scare you though, ultimately it's the laughs and the charm that make this sequel as entertaining as it is.
Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are still happily married. Their young daughter is growing up, and they have another one on the way. With a larger family, they've set their sights on a new home, if only they survive the thirty-day escrow. Things are moving along nicely… that is until Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her two new college pals Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) arrive! After discovering that sororities cannot throw parties with alcohol - you can Google that - they meet an old enemy of Mac and Kelly who convince them to do whatever they can to get the neighboring house to start a true partying sorority. So once again, the Radner’s have a brand new group of college kids moving in which complicates the hell out of their current plans of selling their own home.
You would think that changing the fraternity to a sorority would simply feel like a carbon copy of the first film. Thankfully though, this sequel handles this better than expected. Shelby, Beth and Nora are very different from Teddy, Pete and all his frat brothers. When we meet the girls, they are just sweet, pot smoking loners, who are looking to belong to something. You actually feel a little more sympathy for them in the beginning because they really don’t fit in. Of course, they can get just as mean as the boys, but they have a bit of a cause and it works. As mentioned, the feminist slant isn’t beaten to death, it actually connects perfectly to the context of the story. It's quite entertaining to watch the men struggle with the confusion of what is and isn’t "sexist."
In the original film, it was easy to really care about both Mac and Kelly. The same is true here. As silly and ridiculous as they get, there is a sincerity in their relationship. And yes, once again the lovely Ms. Byrne is as much a part of the craziness as her husband. The two are still having a lot of fun, and it was a treat to see Zac on the other side as well. Efron takes Teddy to a new level of pathetic and there is a ton of humor to come from that. As far as the girls are concerned, this may be the most fun I’ve had watching Moretz since KICK-ASS. There is real heart to her Shelby. Sure she has her cruel moments, but somehow you still feel a little bad for her and her new found sisterhood.
Even if director Nicholas Stoller is dealing with familiar material, he manages to keep it interesting. And if you are a fan of the gross out jokes, you will find them here. Strangely, as disgusting as it gets - bloody tampons and vomiting during sex - it’s tempered a bit with more pratfalls and silliness. A little of that is brought on by Mac’s best pal Jimmy (once again played by Ike Barinholtz) and his wife Paula (Carla Gallo). However, the over-the-top antics really involve everyone. While some of this is bordering on black comedy and would certainly involve police in the real world, Stoller manages to keep it funny without getting too grim. Some of the pranks that the girls play is downright criminal, so you may be cringing a little during the laughter.
NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING is an unexpected joy to watch. The script by Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg retains the sense of goofy - and occasionally dark - comedy better than you may anticipate for a sequel. You also have to give huge credit to the actors themselves who help keep it all together. It may lack the surprise of the first film, but it is still a perfect flick to see with a crowd. Hell, at this rate I wouldn’t mind seeing what type of neighbors the Radner family gets a third time around. For what many may consider a dumb comedy, there is something surprisingly honest and heartfelt about what this film has to say about growing up and the friends that you keep. And yes, it’s pretty damn funny as well.
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