Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising review

By Ryen Thomas

May 23, 2016

Like its predecessor, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising continues the awkward coming-of-age story with and for grown-ups. Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne return as Mac and Kelly Radner, along with Zac Efron as Teddy, the former thorn in their side. The first Neighbors had plenty of raunchy and slapstick humor that made it a hit and this one continues the trend within the first minute. However, it isn’t long until a new layer of the film is introduced exploring modern sexism and double standards. Catalyzing the exploration is the addition of Shelby, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, who first thrilled audiences as a newcomer in Kick Ass.

A T-shirted girl in a sea of Stepford sorority sisters, our first image of Shelby quickly establishes the character as going against the grain. Shelby’s hopes of joining Greek life are tainted when she learns that only fraternities are allowed to throw parties, so she forms her own sorority determined to flout the rules. Problem is, the Radners are her new neighbors and the last thing they need is another party house next door.

Enter the film’s tug of war: Parenthood vs Sisterhood. Girl power vs the Patriarchy.

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Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Reducing the film to a battle of the sexes limits what it achieves. I found the journey each character goes through to be most rewarding here. While there are a lot of surprisingly heavy themes about growing up like in the first Neighbors, the tone is more consistent, pacing is tighter and it doesn’t get bogged down by everyone voicing their existential crisis. Granted, Teddy does tell us his motivation “I want to be valued” over and over again, but otherwise the movie shows without over-telling.

With all the added estrogen to the plot, alpha boy Teddy is not pushed to the back of the bus. Feeling abandoned from his friends who are moving on with his life, he essentially faces his age creeping up on him just like Mac did in the first film. His arc takes a humorous, yet sincere turn when finds himself, now the old man in the room.

There’s a hilarious illustration of modern communication when Shelby and friends discuss Teddy’s quarter-life crisis in mere seconds, via text messaging right in front of him. Though finding himself at odds with the girls, they do have an impact on him. There’s a run in with his former best friend (Dave Franco) who yells the classic code, “Bros before hoes.” Teddy somberly responds with, “Don’t call them hoes. That’s not cool anymore.”

Emotional ride aside, the raunchy humor that made the first film a success is still in this movie, but it doesn’t have the same bite. Like Channing Tatum, Efron knows how to exploit his beefy good looks for humor. Rogen and Byrne make believable parents, but seeing them screw up in adulting is fun and there are playful blunders from their exchanges with other grown-ups.

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Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Some comedic gags fall flat, are predictable and/or are not as scene stealing because the film places most the thematic weight on its lesson on girl power first and foremost. This sometimes makes the movie feel more like a R-rated version of Disney’s Girl Meets World instead of another Superbad, Hangover or Bridesmaids. A progressively minded audience may appreciate that aspect, but I must say there were minor cringe-worthy moments for me when it seemed like the film was embracing new double standards as opposed to criticizing them. I would have appreciated the film more if the grown-ups’ promotion of girl power didn’t prevent the girls from being more accountable for their carelessness at some points. Minor complaint about the thematic message aside, Neighbors 2 is a noteworthy follow up. Not as much laugh-out-loud fun as the first one, but still maintains the warmth and spirit.

Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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