Movie Review - Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

This movie fails in the way that most sequels do. It basically does the exact same thing that the original does. This can be fine, if the sequel can improve upon the formula, the way The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Aliens (1986) or Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) improved upon their originals. This movie doesn't improve upon the original. It basically copies, switching up things slightly. Instead of being about a rowdy college fraternity, it's about a rowdy, college sorority.

The movie does highlight a sexist, double standard. There is a real-world rule by the National Panhellenic Conference that forbids drinking in sorority houses. Sororities can host parties but only in conjunction with fraternities. It's not legally binding. It's strictly voluntary and meant to promote safety and responsible drinking. However, many argue that the opposite result is reinforced by this rule as it also reinforces patriarchy and rape culture.

ChloĆ« Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass and Hugo) co-stars as Shelby, a sorority girl who hears about this rule and decides to start her own independent sorority where the girls can drink and party the same as fraternities. Unfortunately, the house she uses is the same house from the last movie.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne reprise their roles from the last film as Mac and Kelly respectively, the new parents who live next door to that house in question and who complain about the noise and disturbances from the parties.

The stakes are slightly raised this time around. Mac and Kelly are trying to sell their house but the presence of a rowdy sorority next door will hinder that. There's an explanation of escrow, and a joke about how some don't understand it. Basically, they have 30 days before the new buyers' decision is confirmed, but Mac and Kelly think the new buyers won't go through with it.

It's a way to put the former protagonists at odds in the same way, but it's tired and feels more tame. It's not as effective, probably because Shelby and her two friends, Beth, played by Kiersey Clemons, and Nora, played by Beanie Feldstein, are given not much depth at all. Shelby is a virgin and a spoiled brat who likes smoking weed, but other than that, the movie doesn't care to go deeper with her.

The movie would rather focus on Zac Efron who returns as Teddy Sanders, the college frat boy who isn't in college any more but who still behaves and wants to be that college frat boy. Teddy has a kind of arrested development. While his friends are growing up and getting grown-up jobs as adults, Teddy still wants to party and be in a fraternity, afraid to stand on his own. This is interesting, but, for all the movie's talk about female empowerment and gender equality, the movie still prefers Efron, the hot, white guy over any girl.

Despite that, the movie does pull a good move by making Teddy's friend, Peter, played by Dave Franco, now be gay. It could have just been a throwaway joke, but the filmmakers develop his character. Yes, it takes away from the girls, but it presents something not often explored, a gay fraternity member coming out to his fellow fraternity brothers. Franco and Efron are funny together.

Unfortunately, there is so much about this movie that isn't funny or falls flat. It clunks along to an obvious ending and not an exciting or compelling one. The movie has Lisa Kudrow and Kelsey Grammar but doesn't make much use of them. The movie has Jerrod Carmichael and Hannibal Burress and also doesn't make much use of them. Carmichael plays Garf, a cop who is friends with Teddy. Yet, when Teddy who decides to help Mac and Kelly learns Mac and Kelly were hacked and robbed, Teddy doesn't think to call Garf.

There's a weird edit involving a sorority girl crashing through a windshield that is pointless and inconsequential. The tailgate party and the sexy party aren't as well constructed as the filmmakers hoped or as engaging as they could have been.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for crude sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language, drug use, teen partying.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 32 mins.


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