This review originally appeared on Cinedelphia.com
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is about as inspired as its title would imply. It is a literal retread of the conflict from the original Neighbors, punctuated by even crasser humor, more cameos, and a muddled but true comment on male/female sex politics. And yet, despite its laziness when it comes to plot, character, and existing in any semblance of reality, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is still a lot of fun. I’ll give director Nicholas Stoller and Seth Rogen this: they know how to get a laugh.
The film picks up where the last one left off: Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are reeling parents trying to juggle work, love, and raising their daughter. They don’t sweat the small stuff: they swear like sailors around their daughter, they unapologetically laugh in front of company when the kid continues to find and play dress up with Kelly’s vibrator (I warned you it was crass), and Mac’s recreational drug habit is still alive and well, with paraphernalia strewn about the household. When Kelly finds out she is pregnant again, the couple decides to move on up to another house where they can get more space, peace, and quiet. What they don’t count on is a newly formed sorority moving in next door as they enter escrow, a 30-day period where the new buyers can drop in to inspect the surroundings and pull out of the purchase if spooked. Stakes set.
The sorority seems nice enough at first; after all, they stand for something honorable. Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) got the idea when she could not be herself at a rush event for an established sorority. The creed for Kappa Nu is to buck the unfair policies of the Greek system, specifically that women cannot live in sorority houses together (or else be deemed a brothel) and that sororities cannot throw parties, but fraternities can. This is true in real life and is an agenda worth fighting for. But that is all Neighbors 2 can really muster up intelligently before descending back into bro humor: “We should form our own sorority… we deserve to party because girl power!” It does not help that Shelby, the antagonist for this tale, goes from a nice, misunderstood young woman to a hellbent partier, depending on what the script dictates.
Quite literally, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) inserts himself into the showdown, now homeless after being displaced by his roommate (Dave Franco) getting engaged. Efron’s performance is by far the most fascinating in theNeighbors franchise; his character’s desperate attempt to hold onto his college years, when he was king, is utterly compelling to watch. Efron instills Teddy with a sad, lost puppy mentality that is seriously heartbreaking. Teddy’s need for acknowledgment and a support system drives him to sociopathic levels (as we saw in the first film), but his actions are not without empathy.
The more these three groups collide, the more preposterous and detached from reality the story becomes. How did the sorority get so popular and widely accepted by the rest of campus? Who cares. How are the police not getting involved at certain points? Not important. The sorority house has backup generators powered by the pledges? Oh yeah, we forgot to tell you? It serves the plot. Questions like these are peppered throughout Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, but the writers do not seem interested at all in grounding their story in a believable world; they simply want to make you laugh. And using that barometer, there is plenty to like here.
The chemistry between Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne is still magical; they feel like a real, married couple that love each other despite their flaws and know each other intimately, sometimes painfully so. The moments between them, when they are doing their best to figure out parenthood, ring truest. Conversely, the scenes pitting them against the sorority feel even more unbelievable and out-of-place, all for the sake of the comedy. When the sorority started throwing their used tampons at their neighbors’ windows, which somehow was fair game in the war being waged here, I gave up on trying to suspend my disbelief– I was simply watching a string of wild scenes designed to make me laugh if I bought in for the ride.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is not worth seeing in the theater; it’s not even as good as its predecessor, which some would argue isn’t all that great to begin with. But if you like Rogen’s brand of humor, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Rent it.