Film Review: “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”

Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and Rose Byrne
Directed By: Nicholas Stoller
Rated: R
Running Time:   1 hour 35 minutes
Universal Pictures

Our Rating 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Did “Neighbors” need a sequel? Absolutely not. It didn’t even end with a cliffhanger or any storyline that would necessitate the need for a second. But in today’s theater age, profit=sequel. Of course I may further incite the need for a “Neighors 3” with the following statement. Despite the same plot, and a gender swap out, “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is funnier and even more charming than the first.

A couple of years after the events of “Neighbors”, Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) are expecting their second child and looking to move into a more spacious home. With the fraternity no longer hosting raging keggers, they find a buyer with no problem. The only problem is escrow. Since I’m not a homeowner, nor have I attempted to buy one yet in my life, I was unsure as to what escrow means. Apparently Mac and Kelly don’t either. It means that the buyers can change their mind in 30 days if there’s something they don’t see fit about the home. Of course this could easily just be a plotline convenience created by the movie.

Coincidentally, the old fraternity house is about to become alive with again with a sorority. Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) are sick of the generic sororities, at least the typical Greek life tropes the movie portrays. Instead of conformity, forced cheeriness and male degradation, the trio creates their own sorority meant to empower their inner-lioness. Obviously a bunch of screaming girls, hosting their own raging keggers, doesn’t sit well with Mac and Kelly. The rest of “Neighbors 2” is the various hijinks and escalating pranks that happen between the two warring neighbors.

The first “Neighbors”, which I didn’t like, was about the bond of men in college as well as learning to grow up. “Neighbors 2” has the girls at an age of 18, so we can’t really expect them to “grow up”. Instead we get a more meaningful theme of acceptance and empowerment. Even the grossest scene of the movie, the sorority sisters throwing used tampons at Mac and Kelly’s home, is a lesson. Albeit a blood soaked, gross lesson. I know that might be hard to believe, but trust me.

There are the typical cheap laughs that we’ve come to expect from a Rogen comedy. I guess we’re supposed to laugh at Rogen being fat, people getting high, vomit on the face during sex, and other tired jokes. It actually makes the tampon scene feel a lot cleverer in retrospect. It’s socially aware enough to make us feel guilty about laughing or make us actually develop a thought while laughing.

It’s just unfortunate that such an enlightening movie has to hammer home its theme at nearly every chance it can get. It’s nice to see that the five male writers were willing to flip the script and poke fun at the overtly sexual nature of college men who see women as objects. But I think at least a sixth writer, preferably female, could have helped these guys guide their justified moral outrage in funnier, more unique, and in less, obvious ways.

Teddy (Efron) is back as a man-child who still can’t grow up. He serves as the mentor for the sorority at the beginning and switches sides when he’s disowned by the sisterhood. Watching Teddy grow as a person during the movie is most character development an Efron character has ever seen. In that sense, and others, “Neighbors 2” surprised me a lot. I was expecting a lazy rehash, but I have to give credit where credit is due; the six-man writing team realizes that a little empathy for all their characters can go a long way.