Neighbors was a big summer comedy hit in 2014, featuring the unique comedy pairing of Seth Rogen and Zac Efron hilariously squaring off against each other in a war between a family with a newborn and the fraternity next door. It is no surprise that they have made sequel, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, that is sure to make money even if it falls a little short in measuring up to the original.
Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen and Rose Byrne) are expecting a 2nd child and have just closed in escrow on selling their house next to the unoccupied old fraternity house and are 30 days away from moving into their new, bigger home. Shortly after that 30 day period starts, three college girls led by Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) decide to open their own sorority because they want to be able to party, which isn’t allowed to sororities on campus, and they find the frat parties too degrading. Helping them in starting up the sorority is Teddy (Efron), who finds himself a little listless in his post-college life (and with a criminal record that makes it difficult for him to get a good job due to the events from the first movie). Freaked out that the potential buyers could stop by and back out of the agreement when they find out a sorority exists next door, Mac and Kelly try to make nice with the girls and Teddy, only to be rebuffed. Soon war breaks out again between the neighboring houses and Teddy finds himself switching allegiances.
It would be easy to just sum things up here as it all basically being a rehash of the first movie. To a degree, that is true, as some of the jokes feel recycled. However, the film is still quite funny and entertaining. Rogen and Byrne have pretty good chemistry together as there is clearly quite a bit of ad-libbing going on in their interactions as spouses who are secretly afraid that they are terrible parents to their daughter and are freaked out at the prospect of a 2nd one. Adding the possibility of their house situation blowing up on them makes them desperate.
Likewise, the girls renting they house have to raise money to be able to make rent and keep the house, so they are desperate as well, which is why the two sides can’t find common ground and things go sour. It’s a passable enough excuse, barely. Maybe it’s because of my age, but the fact that the sorority girls refused to compromise just because they wanted to party did not seem like a valid enough reason to throw the life of a family with a toddler and a 2nd kid on the way into complete financial chaos. I had no problem suspending my disbelief with the first movie that I was probably able to look past the things that here made me say, “Well, that’s kind of unreasonable on their part.” I’m not sure if that says something about me, about possibly my views on gender politics, or about the movie, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the kind of thing I should be thinking about too much when a film like this is supposed to be generating hysterical laughter and is interested in going only so deep on issues like sexism.
Sadly, I think there is also a massive plot hole involving the sorority cornering the market on weed for a weekend sale that would cover their rent issue for three months. It would have made sense for the Radners to help them at that point and get through the 30 days quietly rather than sabotage them and escalating the conflict in the process.
Thankfully, Zac Efron saves the film. He is the best thing in the entire movie. I know, words I never thought I would write. Teddy is a wild card thrown into the neighborly spat. Because of personal insecurities between a difficult job situation and things changing as life changes for his frat brothers post-college. Because of that, he lashes out at those he perceives to have caused his trouble or who have abandoned him. When he joins the Radners, it’s almost like they adopt him and begin parenting him on being more of an adult.
Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo return, as do Dave Franco for smaller supporting roles and get some moments to shine. Selena Gomez has a small role that doesn’t amount to much of anything. Moretz’s Shelby is flanked for most of the film by Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) as fellow freshmen who want to experience college on their own terms and develop a genuine sisterhood bond with one another. The girls who round out the sorority also have some entertaining moments, including a running Minions gag that pays off pretty well.
Despite some recycled material and some uneven pacing and plot contrivances that are hard to distract from, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is still quite entertaining, mainly because everyone is so game for what they are doing. It doesn’t quite live up to the original, but it also does not completely fall on its face either. It stays true to the formula that made the first movie so funny and so successful. It doesn’t stray from the familiar path. There are still plenty of laughs, particularly seeing Rogen and Efron interacting on screen. What should be oil and water is a pretty solid comedic pairing because of the contrast between the two of them. I think it’s unlikely we see a Neighbors 3, unless it’s one of those direct-to-video concept spin-offs, it leaves this group of people in a satisfying place.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars