NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Crude Sexual Content including brief Graphic Nudity, Language throughout, Drug Use and Teen Partying

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Directed by: Nicholas Stoller

Written by: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg

Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse & Selena Gomez

2014’s NEIGHBORS wound up being one of Seth Rogen’s better comedies in recent years. Mixing juvenile dick jokes with a smart script and well-developed characters, that film was an instant box office hit. Where there’s financial success, a sequel is likely in development. Sure enough, two years have passed and now we have NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING. Most comedy sequels try way too hard to replicate the original’s success. NEIGHBORS 2 definitely treads old ground, but does so with the heart that made the first film enjoyable to begin with.

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Set two years after the first film, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) now have a two-year-old daughter, are pregnant with a second child, and have entered a 30-day escrow on selling their house. Before they can sign the final paperwork, the couple make a horrifying, all-too-familiar discovery: a hard-partying sorority has moved next door. Kappa Nu, led by rebellious Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), wants to stick it to a sexist system and has no intention of toning down their drunken bashes. Mac and Kelly’s former strategies of neighborly warfare against the fraternity are no use against Kappa Nu, because the sorority sisters have entirely different methods of messing with the couple. Mac and Kelly need help and that’s when former frat leader/wild card Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) comes back into their lives.

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Running at a brisk 92 minutes, NEIGHBORS 2 juggles three storylines. The main attraction is, of course, the territorial war between a desperate couple and the drunken sorority. SORORITY RISING does a decent job of introducing slightly new twists and executing fresh gross-out gags. One act of vandalism is simultaneously disgusting and hilarious, especially when one character points out the hypocrisy of another person’s reaction to it. This sequel’s main plot runs very similar to the first film, repeating familiar beats, but remains entertaining nonetheless. Smaller storylines come in Teddy wanting to be valued by his mature former frat brothers and Kappa Nu’s rebellion against a system stacked against them. These subplots attempt to inject heart into the crude proceedings and reach mixed degrees of success.

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Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, and Carla Gallo slip right back into their characters with ease. Rogen and Byrne are especially funny as the desperate couple, whose situation is far more dire this time around (their lives and money are actually at stake). Efron and Franco expand on their solid bromance that was already established in the first film. Barinholtz and Gallo receive a few memorable moments as side comic relief, though their parts in this sequel are far smaller than they were in the original film.

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The Kappa Nu neighbors are played by Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, and Beanie Feldstein. Moretz has already made a name for herself and starred in films that range all over the map in quality. As Shelby, she’s allowed to return to R-rated, profanity-laced territory that marked her most famous role (Hit Girl in KICK-ASS). Moretz’s sorority leader is fun to watch and makes a formidable antagonist for Mac and Kelly. Clemons and Feldstein are less well-known and both receive a handful of comedic highlights. Clemons does well as Shelby’s best friend, while Feldstein is a former straight-laced student reveling in drugs.

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NEIGHBORS 2 occasionally struggles in its pacing. Because the film is juggling three separate plots (while the original had two), it doesn’t exactly give itself enough wiggle room to milk the maximum level of laughs out of its premise. You can spot scenes in the film’s trailers that don’t appear in the movie at all, which leads me to believe that there’s about 10 minutes of footage on the cutting room floor. These excised moments might have made the film more cohesive as Hannibal Buress’ Officer Watkins makes a return in this sequel, but it’s only for one throwaway joke…while the trailer shows him in a deleted scene that went to another chaotic level. In one surprising improvement, this sequel actually had a better conclusion than the original film. The final minutes balance out a sweet level of parenthood/sisterhood/brotherhood and maintain a good amount of crude jokes. It was a good last note to go out on in an otherwise decent movie.

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NEIGHBORS 2 is very much a repeat of the first film, but adds some new twists to keep things entertaining. The pacing stumbles a bit and as a result, this sequel will most likely be forgotten within a week’s time. On the positive side of things, Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein are great new antagonists and have a compelling subplot of their own. In the end, NEIGHBORS 2 isn’t nearly as bad as other recent comedy sequels (e.g. HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2, TED 2), but doesn’t reach the heats of the original and feels like a mere rehash (think slightly better than HORRIBLE BOSSES 2). If you liked the first NEIGHBORS, then you’ll likely enjoy NEIGHBORS 2 to some extent.

Grade: B-

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