Hot Take: Neighbors 2 is dumb comedy. It’s almost as funny as the original and has a female twist. If you hated the first, you’ll probably really hate this.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising not only delivers a satisfyingly funny sequel to the surprisingly hilarious hit of 2014 but also proves to have some social awareness along the way by introducing a sorority (instead of a fraternity) and occasionally exploring sexism and gender inequality. If you can look past the low hanging fruit of it’s humor, Neighbors 2 does a decent job of making a quasi-feminist statement in between mostly rehashed jokes from the original with the occasional gender bending twist.
The reviews on Neighbors 2 are polarizing. From “the progressive comedy 2016 needs” to “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising simply should not exist, and the world is a slightly sadder place because it does.” From “I went into Neighbors 2 tentatively excited, and came out grinning my face off” to “another sequel no one wanted.“From “look through the haze of weed and the raunchy jokes and you’ll see a movie that’s grown up with its audience” to “it says something when two year-old is the most mature character in the film.” From “a film that’s alive with ideas – funny, refreshing, compassionate” to “I couldn’t wait for this to end.” I could go on but I think you get the point.
Despite the vast differences in the response, it’s unsurprising to read such varying accounts after viewing the film. If you liked the original (and I did, a lot), there’s plenty of refreshed humor from the first movie. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play off each other excellently. The gender twist that replaces the fraternity next door with a sorority who just wants to be themselves and have socially aware parties breathes a lot of the new life the recycled jokes have. All of the relevant supporting cast from the original return including a frequently shirtless Zac Efron. His character Teddy is Efron’s best and often hilarious. The new sorority next door introduces Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein (Jonah Hill’s younger sister) to the mix and all three hold their own in this slightly crowded follow-up.
On the flip side, the editing is unusually choppy which might be better explained by the need for five writing credits. There are even a number of bits present in the trailers (Where the hell did LL Cool J go?) that have fallen to the cutting room floor by the time the film hit theaters. It’s not that much different than the original to really go crazy about either outside of the social commentary about sexism and gender inequality. How carried away can you get about a film’s socio-political statement when it spends about 20% of the movie making jokes about a dildo as a child’s toy, though?
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is both smart and dumb and sometimes even smartly dumb. The comedy is low-brow slapstick filled with raunch and gross-out moments. The film makes a few statements about sexism, gay marriage, parenthood and growing up but it also spends a lot of time on dildos, bong water and Zac Efron’s abs. As a fan of Rogen and the original, I enjoyed the sequel. If you told me you saw it and wish you had your 92 minutes back, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time arguing with you, either.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Gender Bending
Headed into a controversial summer where an all-female Ghostbusters is the worst thing imaginable to the YouTube set, Neighbors 2 offers up a gender flip that works extremely well. It gives the movie just enough of an alteration that adds a little needed freshness to the story.
- Rogen and Byrne
Rogen is often cast as a married guy and his pairing with Byrne is one of the better ones of his career. It’s no surprise someone thought bringing these two back would make sense. For what it’s worth, none of Rogen’s appearances on screen with James Franco are being counted as a married couple.
- Zac Efron’s Abs
Give the guy his props.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Been There
Sure, there’s enough changed to make the jokes feel fresh but deep down there’s not much originality here. If anything, it’s like taking a freshly detailed ’05 Chevy Equinox and spraying it with Ozium Air Sanitizer to give it that new car smell. It kind of works but you know, deep down, it’s still a decade old SUV with a lot of tread on the tires.
- The Editing
How much was edited out of the final cut? There’s a few things from the trailer noticeably absent. Thanks to the editing, it’s hard to keep a good handle on the timeline, too. Hours go by in seconds, days go by in minutes yet all of this is supposed to be happening in 30 days. It might be poor editing or it might be necessary editing depending on how bad the clips on the cutting floor are. Either way, it doesn’t benefit the finished product.