By Jody Crisp (May 23, 2016)
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising's 2014 predecessor, Neighbors, was pretty generously received both commercially and critically. The film used the classic college party formula along with its own twist to tell a mostly entertaining story of new parents who begin a feud with the fraternity next door. The film starred Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as the parents, while Efron played the frat leader. That film is at its best (and most funny) when the cast is given opportunities to just interact with each other. The sequel is no different.
In Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen & Byrne) are back, and with a second child on the way, are now trying to sell their home. The two returning writers from Neighbors, along with Stoller, Rogen, and Adam Goldberg, decided to change it up with this sequel as the Radner's selling of their home is now being jeopardized by a new sorority next door.
One of the more interesting things going on in this sequel is the way they change the perspective of a college frat party. When Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and various other freshmen girls attend their first party, they find themselves uncomfortable in the way they are treated, looked at, and objectified by the "frat boys". Under the impression that there is a law against sororities throwing parties and that they must throw their own parties to avoid the sexist, degrading atmosphere, Shelby decides to start her own off campus sorority, Kappa Nu.
Of course, mixed into this feud is the charismatic Teddy (Efron) who finds himself several years after college unable to move on with his life, while all his friends have established themselves in careers or families. The film's strengths are shared with its predecessor in that many of the jokes are funny and that the best thing it has going for it is the cast. Rose Byrne and Zac Efron once again, steal the show. This film makes good use of its premise with the sorority perspective, utilizing opportunities to make jokes about college parties/atmosphere in a new light.
Most of the charm that came from 2014's Neighbors was the idea of the Radner's both longing to be young again like Teddy and his friends, while Teddy was constantly having to wrestle with the idea of moving on when college was over. These conflicts carry over to Neighbors 2 as the Radner's are still dealing with parenting and Teddy is still trying to "figure things out.", but are overall less interesting this time around. The silver lining is the new dynamic of the sorority and its sisters dealing with being able to throw successful parties and thrive as a sorority, without contradicting the very reasons they started it in the first place.
However, it also suffers from feeling messily pieced together at times, as several elements of the plot are either lifted straight from its predecessor or just don't make sense. Although a lot of the humor feels improvised (which I admire/enjoy), there are also instances where it just feels unnecessary and sloppy. This film also struggles a lot in the 2nd act as you begin to notice how inconsistent the laughs are, a problem I did not have with Neighbors. I found most of these problems easy to overlook due to the effectiveness of the cast and new concept.
Neighbors 2 is better than most comedy sequels and most of the mainstream comedies of 2016, so far. However, that's not saying much at all. If you enjoyed the first film, then you will most likely find some redeeming qualities here. If you were not a fan of the first film, you may want to steer clear. After how awful Dirty Grandpa was earlier this year and unpromising Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates appears to be, I could feel my admiration for Zac Efron being tested. I'm not sure Neighbors 2 is enough to justify my Efron bias, but it does seem to be enough to at least hold me over, for now.
RATING: 2.5 out of 4.
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