Everybody needs good neighbours, and these ones come with social commentary.
The movie known in Australia and the UK as Bad Neighbours, and simply Neighbors to the rest of the civilised world, was an unexpected gem filled with unrestrained stoner comedy, risqué humour and a delightfully honest couple in Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne. Yet like many films of its kind, there was a definite boy-centric humour, and the amount of was dick jokes matched only by gratuitous shots of Zac Efron’s abdominals. So BAD NEIGHBOURS 2: SORORITY RISING (or just Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) tackles, in part, the real US National Panhellenic Conference directive that their sororities can’t throw the parties that their fraternities down the road can enjoy as cultural norm.
Of course, the main thrust of the film is warring neighbours again, as Mac (Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Byrne) expect their second child and decide to sell their house. Going into a period of escrow means a convoluted plot device by which the new buyers can withdraw their deal if they are spooked by anything untoward. Meanwhile, disillusioned college student Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) moves in next-door and decides to show the establishment who is boss by setting up her own sorority, Kappa Kappa Nu, and run parties under the tutelage of former frat boy Teddy (Efron). It sets the stage for a series of misadventures in the vein of the first film, and to this end there is a definite sense of the familiar.
Nevertheless, this sequel immediately offers up a few surprises, certainly when it comes to fate of the mostly sidelined characters of Dave Franco and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Efron’s Teddy is now a dejected shell of his former self, and there’s plenty of fun to be had with that, with Efron getting to stretch his range a little beyond the still obligatory shirtless scenes. Moritz’s Shelby isn’t the charismatic lightning rod that Teddy was, and nor is she meant to be: she an actual voice with a pointed piece of anti-discrimination messaging behind her. Likewise, neither of her constant colleagues (played by Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein) have singular character traits like their spiritual predecessors, as they too are present to point out what passes for comedy has unfortunately different standards when it comes to gendered material. Sadly, neither of them are given much of a screen presence beyond this either. Like all the other elements in the film, they serve to set up the next gag.
While BAD NEIGHBOURS 2: SORORITY RISING isn’t as consistently or outrageously hilarious as the high points of the original, oftentimes getting caught in the nexus between commentary and comedy, it still plays to the character strengths of the first chapter. You can’t help but fall for the couple of Mac and Kelly, and even the chief antagonists have a point of view that is perfectly plausible and relatable. Any shortcomings it has with a loosely defined house-selling narrative are covered by a barrage of jokes, including frequent parodies of Universal’s Minions franchise, journeying further into the non-sequitur surrealism of Rogen and Stoller’s earlier works.
2016 | US | Dir: Nicholas Stoller | Writers: Seth Rogen, Nicholas Stoller, Evan Goldberg, Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien | Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloë Grace Moretz, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Selena Gomez and Lisa Kudrow | Distributor: Universal | Running time: 92 minutes | Rating:★★★ (6/10)