by Adam Riske
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.
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.
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?