“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is the latest recycled sequel to a movie that wasn’t good in the first place (2014’s “Neighbors“). I had zero expectations for this movie and I’m surprised to say how much I enjoyed it! This movie is silly and absurd and requires viewers to seriously suspend disbelief, but it is really quite funny and — surprise! — smartly insightful. The rapid pacing kept me thoroughly entertained and the jokes kept me laughing. These weren’t just a few chuckles, this was hearty, sustained laughter. Comedy is subjective, but I found “Neighbors 2” hilarious.
Most of the original cast is back, including co-stars Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, and Carla Gallo. Parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are expecting baby number 2 and have just sold their house. They have a 30 day escrow period where the buyers are encouraged to stop by unannounced at any time (see where this is going)?
Flash to the local college where a fraternity party is in full swing. Socially awkward and slightly geeky freshmen Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) cross paths at the party, are disgusted by its “rapey” atmosphere, and decide to move off campus and start their own sorority, Kappa Nu. When the Kappas rent the house next door, they team up with former frat king Teddy (Zac Efron) for advice on how to grow membership, raise capital, and of course, throw killer parties. When the sorority girls have a run-in with their neighbors, the formula from movie #1 kicks into gear and the war begins.
This isn’t a lazy film, however; many of the gags from the first film are NOT recycled. The big twist is that Efron teams up with Rogen and Byrne to fight against the girls’ “right to party.” It’s a fun premise and it works. There are some truly inspired bits of comedy on display, making this one of the better sequels I’ve seen in a while. The actresses are likeable across the board, even when they repeatedly refer to Rogen and Byrne as “old people.” Efron and Rogen have an authentic, easygoing chemistry. The gags are goofy but amusing, with a good mix of both cerebral and physical humor. And there’s a pretty sweet scene involving a seriously buff, shirtless, dancing Efron and a grilled ham.
Despite the silly partying scenes, the movie has an unexpected strong, positive feminist message about girl power and friendship. I didn’t see it coming but I heartily applaud the filmmakers and writers for successfully doing more with what could’ve been another typical college party comedy. This movie is ambitious for cohesively mixing a gross-out comedy with a message movie — and it actually works. “Neighbors 2” is bawdy, funny and has a big heart. This movie surprised me, and I also think it’ll surprise you.
“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is the rare sequel that is not just better than the original, it’s significantly better. The trailer would have you believe that “Neighbors 2” is just the first movie all over again, except with a sorority this time instead of a fraternity. It isn’t.
In this movie, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are still living in the same home with baby Stella (Elise Vargas) and getting ready to have a second baby. They are enjoying the peace and quiet that has come after the fraternity next door led by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) has long since left the house. Meanwhile, Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her friends have learned that, surprisingly, sororities in the Greek college system aren’t allowed to have parties. In response, they create their own sorority outside of the system and rent a house. . . and of course it’s the one next to Mac and Kelly.
There is much to like about this movie, starting with its attitudes — which are refreshingly progressive without feeling forced or preachy. In “Neighbors 2,” a major theme is gender equality: Shelby and her friends aren’t looking for boyfriends, and only want a place where they can enjoy college and sisterhood on their own terms. Gay marriage is treated seriously — this may be the first mainstream, R-rated adult comedy featuring a gay relationship that is never played for laughs.
The actors are all well within their element here and are obviously having fun with this material. Zac Efron, in particular, is delightful as Teddy and provides some of the best laughs of the film. Despite its similarity to the first movie, the jokes here don’t feel recycled. With the possible exception of Lisa Kudrow‘s character (Dean Gladstone), all of the returning characters feel like they have a reason for being here which isn’t “hey, do you remember me from the first movie?”
While the movie certainly deserves its R rating, it doesn’t rely on gross out humor to earn its laughs (with one notable exception). For the most part, it’s an inspired comedy and it’s worth seeing.