Editor’s Notes: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising opens in wide theatrical release today, May 20th.
Raise your hand if you wanted a sequel to 2014’s semi-surprising box-office hit, Neighbors. Now lower your hand if you’re involved in any way, shape or form with the production of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, a sequel no one asked for and no one wanted, except, of course, for the studios who took one look at Neighbors’ $270 million worldwide gross and fast-tracked a sequel into production. As the title implies, the sequel flips the script, swapping out the obnoxious, rude, and crude frat-boys of the original with kindler, gentler sorority girls who just want to have fun, but who have to fight their thirty-something neighbors for the legal, moral, and ethical right to party. It’s not all quite been there, seen that, but Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising does suffer from the tendency of cash-grab sequels to reuse or tweak gags that were only moderately funny the first time, hopefully reminding moviegoers of that time, a year or two ago, when they laughed out loud or maybe just to themselves.
That Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising isn’t a complete and utter failure, however, is something of a minor miracle . . .
That Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising isn’t a complete and utter failure, however, is something of a minor miracle, especially considering the purely financial rationale for the sequel’s existence. Bringing back Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as the long-suffering couple, Mac and Kelly Radner, respectively, helps tremendously. As Mac and Kelly, Rogen and Byrne share an easy, relatable chemistry. They look and sound like an actual couple, albeit a relatively affluent couple with a tendency for profanity and questionable life choices. When we catch up with Mac and Kelly, however, they’re back in boring couple mode. With one daughter practically ready for preschool and another on the way, they’ve decided to leave their starter home behind for a significantly larger, more expensive home elsewhere. There’s just one catch: They agreed to sell their current home via escrow, meaning the buyers could pull out anytime within 30 days.
Rogen and Byrne share an easy, relatable chemistry. They look and sound like an actual couple, albeit a relatively affluent couple with a tendency for profanity and questionable life choices.
Thirty days might not seem like much, but it’s an eternity to Mac and Kelly when a new sorority, Kappa Nu, sets up residence next door. Their onetime nemesis turned frenemy inexplicably turned nemesis again, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), also makes a comeback, this time as the mentor and advisor to Kappa Nu. It’s another chance for Teddy to relive his golden years as alpha frat boy, but soon discovers the perils of aging out. Despite a desire to mess around with Mac and Kelly, to semi-literally stick it to the Man and Woman, Teddy discovers he has his limits, eventually necessitating a switch from Team Kappa Nu to Team Mac and Kelly when the relative stakes (sorority vs. oldsters) takes a potentially criminal turn that even Teddy thinks unwise. That doesn’t stop the sorority’s co-leaders, Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein). They have to learn their life lesson the hard – and maybe once or twice, the hilarious – way.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising tries – and to be fair, occasionally succeeds – at depicting the sorority girls less as mean girls and more as average girls who just want to party like the boys, but minus the sexism, misogyny, and potential sexual assault. Along with the 30-day time clock as a plot device, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising uses a little known (possibly untrue) rule that only fraternities can throw parties. Sororities can only help or participate in frat parties, giving Shelby, Beth, and Nora all the motivation they need to go off-campus and start a sorority of their own and throw all the raucous, pot- and alcohol-fueled parties they could possibly want without university or parental oversight (not counting the parental figures next door).
Director Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement, Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and his all-male screenwriting team, including Seth Rogen and longtime partner Evan Goldberg, often take the easy way out, sticking closely to the formula established by Neighbors, escalating the conflict between the non-fun adults and the fun-loving sorority by degrees until eventually one side or both goes to far, leading to not quite pivotal life lessons re-learned moments typical of mainstream comedies, reverting to the status quo with minor, marginal adjustments by film’s end. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but a sequel that asks moviegoers to come back a second time should offer slightly more than rehashed gags (now with sorority girls) and stale, trite messages about friendship, loyalty, and pot. Then again, that’s probably asking too much from a gratuitous, redundant sequel.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising does suffer from the tendency of cash-grab sequels to reuse or tweak gags that were only moderately funny the first time. The film asks moviegoers to come back a second time offering slightly more than rehashed gags (now with sorority girls) and stale, trite messages about friendship, loyalty, and pot.