REVIEW — “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising suffers from a familiar plot structure, recycled gags, Selena Gomez’s bland supporting role, and the so-so chemistry between the sorority sisters. However, it is enjoyable thanks to the well-written one-liners and the comedic talents of Seth Rogen and Zac Efron.
Familiar Plot Structure & Repeated Gags:
Screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), Brendan O’Brien (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets, Yes Man), Evan Goldberg (This Is the End, Pineapple Express), and Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, The Interview) do not vary the formula that made Neighbors work by much. Other than the fact that the college students wreaking havoc are female and that Teddy (Zac Efron) joins forces with Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), these two films are essentially the same.
This is particularly evident in many of the recycled gags. As in Neighbors, the college students exploit their sexuality in order to harass both Mac and Kelly. Also, one of the college students uses their cell phones to pit both Mac and Kelly against one another. This leads to a misunderstanding that starts out mildly humerous, but falls flat when Mac ends up in Australia. This setting is particularly important because it is one of the laziest and least-convincing “set pieces” of the year: It is merely a back drop too gaudy to be used for a low-budget television show. As if that was not enough, this extended gag is a copy of the scene in the original in which Teddy pits Mac and Kelly against one another. Naturally because one of the best gags in the original involved airbags, this film features a few airbag-gags as well. Another obvious repeat gag is when Lisa Kudrow’s Dean Carol Gladstone informs Mac and Kelly that there is nothing she can do, which prompts Rogen and Byrne to cuss her out.
Selena Gomez’s Bland Supporting Role:
Despite the media coverage of Selena Gomez (Spring Breakers) starring in this film, most of her scenes are featured in the trailers for this film. Selena Gomez is a widely popular singer but her portrayal of “Phi Lamda President” is unremarkable. Although she is portraying a one-dimensional, forgettable character, the fact that Gomez does not deliver one humerous joke or bring anything to this film is disappointing.
So-So Sorority Sister Chemistry:
The primary sorority sisters in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising are Chloë Grace Moretz’s Shelby, Kiersey Clemons’ Beth, and Beanie Feldstein’s Nora are simply not as interesting or well-developed as Zac Efron’s Teddy, Dave Franco’s Pete, and the various other fraternity brothers in Neighbors. As Shelby, Moretz is convincing as a loser that turns into a determined, vicious young woman when she does not get what she wants. As Beth, Clemons provides a few laughs but not much else to this film. As Nora, Beanie Feldstein’s performance is forgettable. None of these three characters are captivating because none of them are layered: All three of them are outcasts that want to do things their own way. Also, they are thrown together haphazardly at the beginning in an unconvincing manner. Due to the poor build-up of their relationship and their non-existent chemistry, the character drama involving the turmoil that their sorority faces is ineffective and dull.
The best filmmakers know that a flawed comedy can be redeemed through effective, consistent humor. Screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen manage to provide most of the main characters with at least a few solid one-liners. One of the best lines in this film comes from Clemons’ Beth, who says the following to explain why she was distracted from protecting the sorority’s money by Teddy’s shirtless dance: “I am a human woman. I had to watch that.” Also, Moretz’s explanation of why Kappa Nu threw bloody tampons at Mac and Kelly’s house is surprising and candid. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising consists mostly of a series of gags and one-liners that are thrown at the audience at such a rapid rate that the fact that the vast majority of them are effective makes this an enjoyable experience for fans of Seth Rogen’s raunchy, boundary-less style of comedy.
Seth Rogen & Zac Efron:
The MVPs of this comedy sequel, which make it worth watching, are Seth Rogen and Zac Efron. While Rogen is portraying an immature man struggling to grow up for the umpteenth time, his comedic timing works perfectly with the dialogue and direction. Rogen provides laughs through a scene in which he must smell which garbage bag has weed in it, his shirtless running, and the way he casually cusses in front of his daughter while trying to insist he is a good parent. Efron’s performance as Teddy is just as effective as in the first film. Efron utilizes strong emotive work in order to make Teddy’s struggle to deal with losing his job and getting kicked out of Pete’s apartment convincing and engaging. More importantly, Efron delivers each joke, whether it involves the fact that he can calculate the profitability of weed but nothing else or when he dips his finger in boiling water, in perfect unison with the rest of this film.
Rogen and Efron continue to have strong chemistry in this sequel. Both actors make it convincing that they care about the well-being of one another and are willing to do anything to help each other. Their chemistry is most dynamic when Efron and Rogen are delivering one-liners off of each other. Each scene with them goes by far more quickly and enjoyably than any of the scenes featuring the sorority sisters.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising suffers from a familiar plot structure, recycled gags, Selena Gomez’s bland supporting role, and so-so sorority sister chemistry. Thankfully, the screenplay features enough well-written one-liners and both Rogen and Efron’s strong performances (considering the material) make this worth watching. It is not the kind of film one needs to rush out to the theaters to see. Yet, if you enjoy most of Seth Rogen’s comedies, then you will likely be pleased with this film.
Rating: R for crude sexual content including brief graphic nudity, language throughout, drug use and teen partying.
Runtime: 1 hour and 32 minutes.
Are you eager to see Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising? Did you enjoy Neighbors?