Monday, May 23, 2016

Review: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

by Adam Riske
A rare comedy sequel that doesn’t suck.

I’ve been surprised thus far by the reception of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Its detractors would lead you to believe that it’s one of the worst movies of the year and a reason to rethink humanity. These people are either prone to hyperbolic posturing or have not seen Dirty Grandpa. In other words, I know how bad shit gets. Neighbors 2 is not bad. It’s poorly made but it works in the ways it needs to work which is a) it’s funny and b) has a reason for existing other than making money.
Admittedly I have a weakness for any movie taking place at a college. If I were a filmmaker I would make sure that at least one college movie were on my filmography before it was done. So I’m primed for liking something like Neighbors 2. Grading on a curve, I’d give this movie a pass. Is it essential? No, but (similar to the original Neighbors) if you stumble upon it on Redbox or cable one of these days I think you’ll have a pleasant enough time. I also think the movie has some interesting commentary on the Greek system, sexism and gender politics, including men being threatened by female empowerment trends. This movie could have been so much lazier but it actually has something on its mind. That should be commended coming from a sequel to a comedy.

The plot in brief: Just when they’re finally getting some peace and quiet, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) have their lives turned upside down when the sorority Kappa Nu (led by Chloe Grace Moretz) moves in next door. The expected debauchery ensues and Mac and Kelly turn to their former nemesis Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) to help them bring the sorority down.

The performances can do a lot to carry a movie like Neighbors 2. If you like the actors in it then it’s just another excuse to spend time in their company again. Much is the case here. I think Seth Rogen is somewhat on autopilot here at worst, or deferential to his co-stars at best, so the movie is more about his co-stars Rose Byrne (who is again very funny here just as she was in the original) and Zac Efron. Let’s talk about Zac Efron. Outside of the underrated We Are Your Friends, Efron has never been an actor I’ve championed. He seems earnest but often out of his league. However, something happens when he plays Teddy Sanders and he becomes majestic. It’s a showcase part for Efron and he becomes the best part of the movie. I love Efron in these Neighbors movies. He seems to know this guy inside out and really taps into the soul of this well-meaning frat douche/party boy. This is his Tony Manero. What I love most about his performance is that you can see the joy of acting in it. We need more Teddy Sanders in movies.
I also love the movie’s chaotic energy. It’s audacious and very silly (which I place a high value on). Sequels usually up the ante in by going bigger, whether it be in an action sequence or a gross-out gag (which this movie has some and it’s among my least favorite things in the movie) but I think where Neighbors 2 truly goes bigger is in its tone and that I appreciate. It will do almost anything to wring a laugh out of you and in a way that kept me on my toes. I also appreciate that the movie is going for mostly new jokes instead of relying on what worked in the first Neighbors. There’s the occasional callback, but it doesn’t fall over itself to be self-referential or nostalgic, which most comedies do.

This movie sucks, though, as a technical exercise and that has to be mentioned. The editing, visual effects, cinematography etc. are all super lazy bordering on amateurish. But it’s all good. At the end of the day, Neighbors 2 succeeds on its intentions because it’s funny and a good night at the movies. It’s pure entertainment and there’s nothing wrong with being just that. At least that’s what I would sum the movie up as if I were to talk about it with a friend over coffee. And we’re all friends at this point, right?


  1. I'd agree with the majority of your review. It's nice to be in the company of these characters again, even if this adventure doesn't push the boundaries at all.
    However, I'm not sure I see where you're coming from on the technical front. I thought it was competent and on the same level as any of these sort of comedies.

    1. Hi Richy L. Thanks for commenting. A couple of examples on the technical front would be the CGI in the shot of Rogen in Sydney, Australia and the way the scene with the RA in the girls dorm is edited. There are more examples but I think you see my point. It just seemed sloppier to me than most comedies but that's all a matter of opinion.

    2. Great review, Adam! Your thoughts were pretty much mine - not a great film, but a good follow-up to the original, which is more than I was expecting. I agree 100% about the CGI, especially in that Sydney shot. Took me right out of the movie. You can't honestly tell me that Rogen and co. couldn't scrounge up a few extra buckets of money to either a) actually fly him to Sydney, or b) get a better green screen in there.

  2. You're totally right about the Sydney scene. It was so poorly done that I wonder if for some reason they were going for that look!