NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING – Review
College comedies are back in session this spring. Richard Linklater previously gave us baseball buds just hanging out with EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!, and now Nicholas Stoller and Seth Rogen return with their take on avoiding higher education in lieu of high times with NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING.
Comedy sequels aren’t known for subverting stereotypes. Most are content with delivering 90 minutes of cheap laughs that play off the same theme as its precursor. And so it’s admirable that Stoller has made a progressive sequel that tackles gender issues and shines a light on a double standard in the Greek system: a sorority is not allowed to throw parties inside their house. Fraternities can but sororities can’t. Crazy, right? It almost seems unheard of that this would exist in the year 2016, but it’s true – look it up. And so, this causes three freshmen girls who become aware of the cold hard truth to start their own. Sure, you could always attend parties at fraternity houses, but as the film illustrates and is bluntly described by one of the girls, those parties tend to be “rapey.”
As you can expect, this time around Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) go to war with the new sorority next door, led by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein). Initially, to get Kappa Nu off the ground, they employ the help of Teddy (Zac Efron), but when the tables are turned on him, Teddy joins sides with Mac and Kelly to bring the girls down.
It’s weird to think that a film titled NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING is a feminist movie… but, it kind of is. So much, in fact, that it sort of gets lost in the idea at times. It happily shows these women be strong and funny and stand up for what they believe in, but then falls back on female stereotypes also at times. So it wants to have its cake and eat it too, as is the case in the tailgate turned heist scene (snappily edited to make even Michael Mann smile). One minute the girls are shown as smart entrepreneurs selling “pot-pies,” but then the next minute they are easily distracted by Efron performing a MAGIC MIKE-inspired dance number. Showing the women suddenly dropping their responsibilities to slobber over the sight goes a little against the film’s message, but I also don’t blame the film for reaching for a cheap laugh after all the good it’s mainly doing.
Zac Efron has the ability to make an obnoxious character in theory, come across more as a lovable loser. Sure, his abs redefine the idea of a six-pack, but it’s Efron’s natural charm that shines more. He instills enough heart in the character of Teddy to make him more than just a dimwitted bro.
What’s interesting about the three freshman girls that lead this revolution for the woman’s right to party is that they aren’t necessarily caricatures. Most films would be quick to label these girls. This is the smart one; this is the funny one; this is the party girl. NEIGHBORS 2 avoids this by just showing three normal college girls. Moretz, Clemons, and Feldstein may not have defining characters, but as a result, they feel more natural than the stereotypes that made up the fraternity in the first film.
NEIGHBORS 2 may not be as laugh out loud funny as the last one, but Stoller and his team of five writers – yes five people had a hand in this – trade in dick jokes for a message. Although the first film may have gleefully worn its “bro-ness” like a badge of honor, the sequel mercilessly pokes large holes in the world of bro culture so that the women who are usually relegated to set decoration in this world can have their fair share of the spotlight.
OVERALL RATING: 3.5 out of 5
NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING is now playing in theaters everywhere