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The first Neighbors movie (or Bad Neighbors for my foreign friends) was outstandingly hilarious, and one of my favorite comedies of 2014. It was a comedy that had a lot of heart, charm, energy and comedic timing; everything a growing boy like me needs in his comedies. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, either, because last year brought the announcement of (Bad) Neighbors 2.
I was very excited for the idea, even calling it one of my most anticipated films of the year. I was a bit confused as to what more they would be able to do with a concept like this, but seeing the trailer and hearing the concept was enough to calm my nerves before I got a chance to see the movie myself. I already had one anticipated comedy sequel, Ride Along 2, let me down this year. (Since I didn’t review that one, just know that I found it passable but nowhere near as funny as the first). So, is Neighbors 2 just another disappointment? Kinda. Is it at least a good comedy? Yeah, I’d say so.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is the sequel to the 2014 original comedy, Neighbors.
A couple years after kicking the Delta Psi fraternity out from next door, Mac and Kelly Radner have finally managed to sell their house with the only obstacle being a 30-day escrow period for the new perspective buyers. All is well and good until three college girls, who aren’t fond of the way frat parties are typically handled, create a sorority of their own. They move in (you guessed it) right next door to the Radner house. With the clock slowly ticking for the escrow and the girls having to party to afford their rent, a standoff ensues. The Radners’ only hope now is for old enemies to reunite and take Kappa Nu down.
Based on the synopsis above and the basic staple among comedy sequels you may be convinced that this film is structural similar to the first movie. And you’re right. This film is pretty much a retreading of Neighbors. There are changes to the story that give it enough of a separate identity from the original: new themes, new jokes, new characters and even a new set of events. That’s all anyone really expected, and that’s perfectly fine. Though are these changes good?
The movie does have its moments of brilliance which rubbed off from the previous film. Being an all girl sorority does make for some new ways of messing with the Radners, many of which are hilarious. The situation of Kappa Nu is different from that of Delta Psi’s, which calls for new and amusing comedic setups. The chemistry among characters remains just as strong here as it always has, especially among the returning cast. The themes are different here, too.
The Radners’ parenthood subplot, which was somewhat unexplored in the first film, becomes fully realized here as they realize they don’t know what they’re doing. There’s also a clear implementation of feminism and homosexuality throughout the film. However, before you freak out, it’s done in an impressively subtle and careful way. You never feel like they’re bashing you over the head with either theme, and they basically blend in with the overall story instead of being tacked on. It makes sense whenever its brought up, including when they’re making a joke about it. In fact, one thing I always loved with both Neighbors movies is their ability to tackle clever themes (aging, parenthood, friendship, etc.) in a way that feels natural.
However, the film does still have problems. While it tries to do different things and make new jokes, it’s a bit too afraid to stray too far from the original formula to fully evolve. You grow to expect certain events based on seeing the predecessor, which in some ways ruins the joke. And as for some of the film’s best jokes, like the girls piling on Mac’s car, a lot of them are already in the trailer. Even the jokes that didn’t reach the trailer, most of them are giggles and a few good laughs. Hell, I saw this movie earlier today and I already forgot a bunch of the jokes. I also thought the ending could’ve been a bit better. In fact I think it went on a little too long, and then awkwardly ends. (Though I did find the resolution clever).
Basically, it has it’s flaws, but it still manages to come off as a decent yet familiar story with some decent yet familiar jokes.
The original Neighbors’ best aspect aside from a funny concept and a good script was the raw comedic talent of the actors and how they worked off of each other. That hasn’t changed in Neighbors 2. Everyone still does a good job and helps the movie be as enjoyable as possible.
Once again, Seth Rogen and Zac Efron prove themselves as a stellar comedic duo. Sure apart they’re hilarious since the two are often off doing their own things and at different stages in their lives, but together, forget about it. Whether they’re bickering over minor crap or giving each other a simple hug, it’s something worth grinning at. Seth Rogen also has good chemistry with Rose Byrne, who play a very funny, loving and occasionally messed up couple very well.
New to this particular series is Chloë Grace Moretz as Shelby, the head of Kappa Nu and main adversary to the Radners. Mortez does a good enough job in the film and has some real funny moments, though I wish the writers gave her a few more jokes to work with. The film seems to be more concerned about building her character rather than giving her actual jokes (which is a strange problem now that I think about it, but this is a comedy). She, like most everyone else in this film, has great chemistry with the rest of the cast: both returning and new. She makes a good comedic trio with Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein, who are also very funny.
All other returning mains and cameos are reserved to the background and utilized fairly well, from Dave Franco to Lisa Kudrow. The new cameos like Kelsey Grammer and Selena Gomez are pretty humorous in the own right…but the cut LL Cool J, which makes me sad. Regardless. excellent acting job all around.
The film has very few special effects, and by a few I mean maybe two. Yes, it’s the one you’re expecting had you seen the first film. It’s not mind-blowing, but good for what it is. The music is mainly modern party tracks since the only reason for music is for scenes involving parties. The score that does occasionally pop up is serviceable.
Some of the film’s camerawork and editing make a lot of the jokes a ton funnier and are worthy of praise. One joke regrading the clown is pretty funny with the way it’s shot, as is that one joke from the trailers where Beth flies out of Mac’s car window. Some on screen effects such as the promotional video segment are handled well, too. Had the film been edited in a different way, it probably would’ve felt a little lifeless. Thankfully that aspect carried over from the first film.
At the end of the day, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is not as good as the first film. It has a ton of the same elements- the same comedic performances, same look and feel, same style of jokes- but simply isn’t as funny. Don’t get me wrong, though. This is far from a bad movie or unfunny. On it’s own it’s a decent, inoffensive comedy that is sure to entertain you in the end. Sure many of the jokes are forgettable and aren’t for everybody, but it’s a good enough time in the moment.
Fans of Neighbors will definitely enjoy the film as long as they’re not expecting this to be better than the first film. The film is best enjoyed after seeing the first Neighbors for some narrative context, but it’s still watchable for those who skipped out on that movie. People who like Seth Rogen movies will also find enjoyment in Neighbors 2. If you hated the first movie or you hate movies with humor related to sex, drugs or vulgarity (even in conjunction, this isn’t for you.
To see my thoughts on the first Neighbors movie, click here!
I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!