By: BabyRuth (Two Beers) –
It’s been two years since we last left Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne). They’ve settled into parenthood and their lives have calmed down since they’ve been rid of that pesky frat house next door. Now expecting their second child, the couple is upgrading to a new bigger house in the suburbs. They have a buyer for their current home and all the paperwork has been signed.
There’s just this thing called escrow. For those who don’t know—Kathie Lee—escrow is a 30-day period when buyers have the opportunity to back out of a real estate sale if any circumstances change or agreed to conditions are not met. And buyers are free to drop by any time to check on the house.
No sweat, right? It’s only thirty days. What could possibly happen?
Enter Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), a college freshman who becomes disenchanted with the whole Greek system thing after learning that sororities are not allowed to throw their own parties like fraternities (this is actually very true) and frat parties are, well, gross and dangerous (also true).
Shelby, along with her two new friends, Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein- if she looks familiar that’s because she’s Jonah Hill’s little sister) decide to move off-campus and start their own sorority where they can have parties without the fear of being roofied, or rather a term this film introduces: Cosbyed. And it just so happens there’s a house for rent!
Right next door to the Radners.
Meanwhile, the couple’s former arch nemesis, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) is having trouble adjusting to post-college life. Still working as a model at Abercrombie & Finch and feeling less and less valued, Teddy watches his friends grow up, have careers and get engaged. Soon, his perfect butt is on the street without a place to live. In a panic he returns to the ol’ frat house and meets Shelby and co. who have no idea how to start/run a sorority. Teddy sees an opportunity and volunteers to be their mentor.
Mac and Kelly are none too happy once they learn of these recent developments and plead with Shelby to hold off on throwing any ragers until that 30-day escrow period is up. Because college-aged young adults are well-known for being understanding, empathetic, and selfless, Shelby agrees to keep it down to help out her new neighbors.
Of course she doesn’t! So once again, this means war!
At first glance, this may seem like yet another “girls can be as crude and rowdy as guys” comedy. Which didn’t really get my hopes up for this sequel because honestly, aren’t we all a little tired of that by now? That concept just isn’t so fresh anymore. In fact, before my screening of Neighbors 2, there were previews for two such films, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Bad Moms. What seemed like an original idea way back in the dark ages of 2011 with Bridesmaids (and if we’re giving credit where credit really is due, go back a bit further to 2002’s The Sweetest Thing. Shut up. I will defend that movie forever. Though maybe not as successful in execution, for its time, it was pretty groundbreaking for the female-centered gross-out comedy subgenre ). But now we’re just about at over-saturation. Not that women characters in film shouldn’t be allowed to be as raunchy as men, just that, let’s move past that being the entire movie.
Oh no, but then what if they start remaking classic films with female casts?
And, like most sequels, Neighbors 2 appears to be a rehash of the original, just with a sorority next door instead of a fraternity, leading to the same jokes and gags.
Remarkably, it is neither of these and instead is funny, smartly written, and feels very fresh. In some ways, it even surpasses the first.
The sequel manages to sneak in some pretty effective commentary on gender politics amongst the poop and dildo jokes. Shelby and her friends aren’t some mindless party girls. They’re fighting against a skewed and outdated system just as much as they’re fighting against those “old” neighbors, and even though their methods aren’t always the most mature, or legal, it’s hard not to root for them at times. It creates an interesting dynamic as there is really no clear cut bad guy. Well, except for maybe those douchey frat bros.
But the message is never preachy or in your face, it’s simply there in truth and marks a much needed turning point in these kind of films.
Times have changed.
This isn’t to say the movie is not as funny and outrageous as the first; rest assured, it most definitely is, and I found myself laughing out loud multiple times throughout at both the big revenge moments and the quieter throwaway lines.
And yet, there’s a sweetness to it all. The sisterhood of Shelby and her friends. Mac and Kelly’s stronger-than-ever partnership. And surprisingly, Teddy’s bittersweet journey into adulthood. While the whole cast, returning and new, are great, Zac Efron is the true MVP of this movie, and turns in a downright soulful performance, even when his balls are hanging out.
Oh yeah, this movie is also chock-full of fun cameos. I won’t spoil any.
While the first film earned a lot of acclaim for featuring Rose Byrne’s character as Rogen’s partner-in-crime rather than the typical shrill wife, sadly she’s relegated to the background in this one, with Rogen and Efron taking on the major physical setpieces. Much of this is likely due to her character (and Byrne herself) being pregnant, but aside from a see-it-coming-a-mile-away-but-still-hilarious opening scene gross-out gag, she doesn’t get as much time front and center. And that’s a shame, because she is one of the best comedic actresses working today.
(just watch Spy if you haven’t yet)
Neighbors 2 is a rare comedy sequel that succeeds in being just as fun as the first film. What’s more, it’s a rare comedy that actually has something to say, and says it well.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever anyone says the word “weed” Take Two: when they smoke it
Take a Drink: for every celebrity cameo
Take a Drink: whenever Teddy says that he wants to feel valued
Take a Drink: whenever Zac Efron is shirtless
Take a Drink: whenever the daughter plays with the dildo
Take a Drink: if you catch the Insidious in-joke
Do a Shot: every time Ike Barinholtz’s clown pops up