Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" Review: The Same Old Jokes But Surprisingly Still Funny


The first Neighbors wasn't bad. It had some good jokes, a good cast and a clever premise but did it really need a sequel? Most would say no as it seemingly exhausted every possible joke one could make about a family going to war with a Frat house. Well despite that being true for the most part that didn't stop them from making a follow up that essentially recycles the same jokes, cast and premise with only a handful of minor tweaks so as to not make audiences feel as though they are watching the exact same movie again. Is the formula strong enough to support a retread of the same material and are the tweaks enough to make us forget we saw this same movie two years ago? Read the full review after the break.

Review Vital Stats:   
Projector Type: 2D Digital           
Film Rating: R
Film Runtime:  1 hr 32 min
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date: June 3, 2016

Biases:  
Loves: Rose Byrne, Chloe Grace Moretz
Likes: Seth Rogen, the first Neighbors
Neutral: Zack Efron, pointless sequels, sequels recycle material
Hates: Sequels made simply because the first one made money
Will there be a Neighbors 3?: If so hopefully it will be about Teddy dealing with bad neighbors.

Mac and Kelly discover that they must once again do everything...again.

Things pick up a couple years after the events of the first film with Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) still living in the same home with another baby on the way with the house next door now vacant and up for rent. Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) have graduated college and are now living together but while all of his friends and former Frat brothers have gone on to do relatively decent careers Teddy finds himself at a loss for what the future holds for him. Destiny comes knocking though when Teddy comes across a few college co-eds led by the feisty Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) who are looking to start their own sorority house in order to throw parties where the women aren't sexualized. Teddy decides to take them under his wing as they all move back into the house next to Mac and Kelly and then proceed to make their lives a living nightmare...again.

There isn't a whole lot one can say about Neighbors 2 that hasn't already been said about the first Neighbors. If you liked the first film then chances are you will like the sequel as they are essentially the exact same movie but with a sorority instead of a Frat. Mac and Kelly once again try to be diplomatic and ask the sorority to lay low on the partying until their house is out of escrow allowing them to sucker the new buyers into taking the house. As expected though the girls won't back down since they are low on cash and need to throw a big party in order to afford their rent. Thankfully the writers weren't resting completely on their laurels though and did add in a small wrinkle when Teddy decides to switch sides and work with Mac and Kelly to take down the monster(s) he has created.

The girls of Kappa Nu are not to be trifled with.

Even in the first film Teddy was always the more interesting character. His bro-tastic outer shell was funny but it was the deep seeded sadness we were privy to that made us empathize with him. In Neighbors 2 that empathy is expanded upon as Teddy struggles to find his place in the world and when he finally discovers what path he must travel it is surprisingly sort of inspirational. Even his pal Pete gets some good moments early on despite being magically transformed into a homosexual which is all fine and good but just kind of an odd decision given that it was never even hinted at in the first film. Unfortunately our other main characters are a little bit more one note than Teddy and Pete.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as Mac and Kelly have a sly chemistry when together that makes their scenes together enjoyable and they even have more than a few funny scenes (the opening scene with the vomit was surprisingly hilarious and their obliviousness towards what escrow means was inspired) but they do little to garner our sympathy. Their attack on the sorority feels like overkill and most of their gags aren't that clever. The entire sequence with them orchestrating a theft during a pep rally really fell flat and other than an extremely unnecessary ballsack shot it was forgotten as quickly as it happened. They weren't bad or boring but other than Rogen's constant bickering about getting weed there wasn't much their beyond the actor's own personalities.

Teddy is about to let it all hang out...literally.

Sadly the sorority girls of Kappa Nu don't fare much better than their neighbors as most of the group, aside from their differences in ethnicity, are interchangealbe at best. The only one to emerge as a somewhat three dimensional character is Chloe Grace Moretz's character Shelby whose primary traits are being rebelous (which is demonstrated by her love for marijuana) and being a die hard advocate for women's rights. The problem is neither of those two things really translate into an interesting character. Sure, we get a little background on her such as that she never had any friends in High School (which seems like complete BS because who wouldn't to hang out with someone like Chloe who apparently has easy access to weed?) but that never comes into play other than it fueling her need to create a sorority.

This is probably where the film fails the most though, the fact that both neighbors aren't all that interesting. They provide a few chuckles here and there such as when Mac is locked in his car and being attacked by a bunch of Kappa Nu girls in bikinis who are being hosed down by Kelly in an attempt to get rid of them but according to Mac is only making them sexier. Even a couple of the old people jokes hit more often than not such as Shelby being undermined by a phone with a cord attached to it or how the girls use their knowledge of cell phones and texting in an attempt to break Mac and Kelly up (which actually results in one of the least probable moments in film history in regards to where Mac ends up traveling to on the fly). Despite those few moments of inspiration there isn't much to keep our attention.

Teddy joins forces with Mac and Kelly to take down Kappa Nu.

Neighbors 2 recycles a lot of jokes from the first film which in turn takes a lot of the spontaneous fun out of the proceedings but surprisingly that isn't as big a problem as it should be. The jokes may be familiar but they are still funny and generally tweaked just enough so that you don't feel like you are watching the exact same movie. Teddy continues to be the strongest character in these films which makes it a bit sad that after two films now the writers still can't make Mac and Kelly all that interesting beyond what each actor brings to the table. It is also a slight disappoint that none of the new characters introduced from the sorority make much of an impression either but thankfully Moretz as Shelby adds just enough personality to her performance that it isn't a total bust. Suffice it to say that if you liked the first Neighbors and keep your expectations low for the sequel that you will find just enough here to keep you smiling throughout even if you don't remember much of it when it is over.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

Neighbors 2 didn't need to be made and watching the film sort of reinforces that fact. But is it bad though? Not really. As a matter of fact it is such a harmless little film that it is difficult to find the energy to really slam it for most of its problems. It was enjoyable and has some decent jokes that land more often than not, what more could you want from a sequel you didn't want?

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