By Christian DiMartino
I liked Neighbors. It wasn’t a great comedy, but it was fun and funny, and it benefited from having Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, and Zac Efron onboard. Now we have Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and it still benefits from having the three of them onboard (and pretty much everyone else from the previous film). But… this one didn’t quite work for me.
Like with a lot of sequels this year, I entered the theatre not really feeling that a sequel is necessary… and I left the theatre with the same feeling. Neighbors 2 has a share of funny moments, a few interesting ideas, and there’s never a boring second. But yet a lot of the material doesn’t really work. From the opening scene, in which Byrne vomits on Rogen’s face, I was a tad afraid of the rest of the film. Luckily the whole movie isn’t like that, but yet a lot of it still manages to miss the mark.
Alrighty, so here’s the scoop: Rogen and Byrne return as Mac and Kelly Radner, two terrible parents who claim they’re doing their best (as we’ve heard before). They’re now planning on moving out of their house, but yet the house is on Escrow, which, if you aren’t aware (the Radner’s aren’t aware either), is a 30 day period in which a potential buyer can pop by/decide they have a change of heart, etc. So they tell each other that they’re going to be on their game.
All seems to be well… until they get a new batch of neighbors next door. The fraternity is gone now. Now there’s a sorority, named Kappa Nu, ran by Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her friends. Oh, yeah, need to mention this tidbit: Shelby was a member of another sorority, until she realized that sororities aren’t allowed to throw parties, even though fraternities are. Hence why they decide to start their own. This here kicks off the whole “feminism movement” that the film tries to bash us over the head with.
Knowing that the thought of living next door to a sorority might sabotage their moving plans, it soon turns into a neighbor battle… kind of like Neighbors.To further remind us of it’s sequel-ness, Efron returns as Teddy, the former fraternity leader. After his best friend (Dave Franco, another returning member) kicks him out, he has nowhere to go. However, after a chance meeting, he decides to help Kappa Nu take liftoff.
Rogen and Byrne are wonderful together. Both are hilarious, if they’re given the right material. This isn’t the best use of their talents, but they do what they can. And Efron has a knack for playing stupid well. Moretz is decent to a fault. Though I do wish that cameos from Lisa Kudrow, Kelsey Grammar, Hannibal Burress, and my wife Selena Gomez would’ve been more than cameos.
It’s one thing for a comedy to try and say something. I get that, I dig it. But yet what they’re trying to say here just gets kind of tedious, and also sort of lost in translation. Come on, it’s a Neighbors movie. Don’t try to be more than that.
Now, it’s not often that one knocks a comedy for plotholes, but hell, I found some. Yes, it might seem like nitpicking. But this is my thing: there is no way that the Radners are the only people bothered by the partying. They live in the suburbs, surrounded by people… and yet they’re the only ones complaining? Hmm. Also, at one point, the Radner’s get robbed, and Teddy, having no life, is living with them. Where is he when they’re getting robbed? Exactly. See? I notice these things.
Why did they cast Gomez if they weren’t going to let her do anything? Why does it end on a strangely unfunny note? Why?!
Who knows. All I know is that, entertainment aside, and a few moments, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising ultimately feels like more of the same, in the tradition of The Hangover Part II, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, etc. They figure that if something worked the first time, it has to work again.
But alas, lightning doesn’t always strike twice.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising isn’t a terrible film, but yet it’s a deeply mediocre one. It’s a real shame too, because director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five Year Engagement) seemed to have such a good track record. I know that most of you went to see this or Angry Birds this weekend. You should have, however, seen The Nice Guys instead. It’s fresh and hilarious.
Which this film, sadly, isn’t.