8 out of 10
Seth Rogen as Mac Radner
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising Review:
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising completely avoids the sophomore slump, which is something of a miracle in comedy sequels. I can’t recall one that so successfully keeps the pace and the humor of the original while adding more great characters, themes, and situations. Sure, there are callbacks – the infamous airbags make a reappearance – but it doesn’t try to top what’s been done before, and it doesn’t repeat jokes unnecessarily. Instead, Neighbors 2 puts complete faith in its characters, both old and new, and lets everyone carry the story equally. Also, while Neighbors 2 has no difficulty going raunchy or crude, it’s never cruel. It’s never mean-spirited. It celebrates the differences between everyone, and finds more of its humor through characters than in circumstances.
Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are expecting their second child, so they need to trade up on their home. They’ve found a nice place which they hastily dropped their down payment on, but their original home is now in escrow, which means that for thirty days they have to walk on pins and needles to make sure their buyers don’t drop out. Unfortunately for them, college freshwomen Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) are looking for a place to start their new sorority Kappa Nu. And they’ve found just the place – right next door. It’s unfortunate because, after learning that only fraternities are allowed to host parties and not sororities, Shelby, Beth, and Nora want to strike a blow for women everywhere. They want to throw the same raucous parties that the frats do, without the “super-rapey” vibe that seems to permeate them. To that end, they enlist Teddy (Zac Efron) to help out, and Teddy is more than eager to get back at the Radners for last time.
Teddy’s in something of a rut – all his friends have moved on to successful careers, and he’s stuck at dead end jobs. “They don’t even let you take your shirt off at Abercrombie and Fitch anymore,” Teddy laments. His best friend Pete (Dave Franco) is happily out and about to get married. But partying – Teddy’s good at that, and he thinks he has something to offer to the situation. Regrettably, that puts him in conflict with the Radners once again.
What’s refreshing about Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is that there aren’t any villains in it. If there are any villains, it’s the old school mentality that wants everyone to stay in their supposed place, and Kappa Nu struggles against that. Everyone has a valid point of view – the Greek charter is incredibly sexist, and Kappa Nu wants to fight the status quo. The Radners have no problem with that – but can’t they wait thirty days? When Mac and Kelly plot to stop Kappa Nu, it backfires, and soon everyone is playing an escalating game against the other side.
You could root for anyone in this movie, and you wouldn’t be in the wrong. Screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg keep the jokes coming, but the script never makes fun of these characters, except in a broad sense. There’s so much sympathy for everyone that while the laughs are genuine, they’re also gentle. I love the friendship between Teddy and Pete; Pete is happily gay and in a committed relationship, and Teddy is upset – not about Pete being gay, but that Teddy was the last friend he told about it. There’s a kindness to Neighbors 2 that you’d think would be anathema to a crass comedy like this, but isn’t. It’s sweet but not cloying. Stoller keeps everything moving at a brisk pace. Neighbors 2 doesn’t suffer from bloat at all – indeed, it’s a sharp 92 minutes long, and never outstays its welcome.
Seth Rogen is his usual customary funny self, and while Rose Byrne isn’t given as much to do this time, she still carries some sharp comedic chops. The ladies of the sorority are also comical, especially Moretz, who while earnest has no difficulty getting just as filthy as the men. To them, the sorority is a safe place where these women can enjoy each other’s company, smoke some weed, take in friendships, without having to worry about dudebros ruining all their fun. You root for them – in a way, the Radners are the antagonists this time around. Their conflict makes for some great fun.
The best performance of the movie, though, is Zac Efron’s. He’s grown exponentially as a comedic actor, and Efron’s lovable doofus is always fun to watch. There’s even a bit of pathos to Teddy this time out – everyone close to him has moved on from the glory days of frat parties and taken responsibility for their lives but Teddy hasn’t. Efron could have overplayed his hand here, but Teddy is a sweet guy who means well; he just needs focus, and how Teddy finds his focus is the best arc of the movie.
There are no jokes at anyone’s expense. It’s energizing just how nice this movie is. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is that rare comedy that keeps being consistently funny while treating everyone with dignity and respect. This is a sequel just as funny as the original, and it celebrates diversity while still being gut-laugh hilarious.