Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is one of those sequels that really didn’t need to be made. It exists solely because the first one was a big financial success. On top of that, the plot is basically just a rehash of the original. Although this all sounds like a recipe for disaster, Neighbors 2 is astonishingly one of the better comedy sequels out there. Isn’t that funny?
Granted, other comedy sequels have set the bar pretty low. Saying that a film is better than The Hangover Part II, Beverly Hills Cop III, Police Academy 4, or Scary Movie 5 doesn’t mean much. Yet, Neighbors 2 surprisingly lives up to its predecessor and works as a standalone comedy as well. It’s by no means a comedic masterpiece. For a follow-up that seemingly had nowhere to go but down, however, it delivers a lot more laughs, wit, and maturity than audiences might anticipate.
Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are back as Mac and Kelly Radner, respectively. They’re expecting their second child and thus decide to purchase a bigger home. The couple manages to sell their old house, although the buyers have 30 days to back out. As bad luck would have it, Chloë Grace Moretz’s Shelby moves in next-door a couple days later and she brings a rowdy sorority with her. To make matters worse, the girls are accompanied by Zac Efron’s Teddy, the gorgeous frat boy who made life hell for the Radner’s in the first film.
As you can tell from that synopsis, the basic story isn’t anything new. Nevertheless, Neighbors 2 does bring several new things to the table. For starters, the filmmakers further develop the characters. Okay, so none of the people here are as complex or deep as the characters in The Godfather Part II, but everybody shows a sign a growth, particularly Teddy. At first, it looks like the former fraternity president’s character ark is simply going to be repeated. In an inspired turn of events, though, he eventually switches sides. The friendship Teddy starts to share with the Radner’s is genuinely sweet and all three actors maintain wonderful chemistry.
The material involving the sorority is also a ton of fun. It would have been easy to just make the girls next door the villains. Yet, they’re all identifiable and funny too. In the grand scheme of things, the film even manages to work in sharp commentary regarding sexism. After Shelby and her friends find out that only fraternities are legally allowed to throw parties, they decide to start the first sorority that operates outside the law. This of course leads to plenty of memorable comedic bits, but it also says something empowering about women.
Most people would agree that a majority of the college comedies from the 80s, such as Porkies and Revenge of the Nerds, didn’t exactly have much respect for the female gender. The women here are all smart, fleshed-out individuals, however, and aren’t strictly treated as sex objects. You actually find yourself sympathizing with their desire to stick it to the man and party the way they want, even if it means the Radner’s might suffer. It’s a highly relevant topic, especially since so many Internet trolls are currently complaining about the new Ghostbusters movie having a female-driven cast. The film also pokes fun at how the term “sexist” sometimes gets thrown around a little too loosely in today’s sensitive, PC world. In what could have been a one-sided debate, Neighbors 2 sees matters from both perspectives in a clever manner.
Of course we still get more than enough gross-out gags involving puke, gentiles, and bloody tampons. If that’s not your kind of sense of humor, this admittedly might not be the comedy for you. Even with all of its crude jokes, though, the film respects its characters and respects the intelligence of its audience. The cast and crew honestly didn’t need to try here, but you can tell that everybody is giving it their all. The result is one of the rare comedy sequels that doesn’t disappoint. Neighbors 2 might not rank up there with Anchorman 2, 22 Jump Street, or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but it will leave you infinitely more optimistic about Neighbors 3.
For more on Neighbors 2, read our review here.