Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising Director: Nicholas Stoller
Screenwriters: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Cast: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Jerrod Carmichael, Hannibal Buress
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Rated R | 92 Minutes
Release Date: May 20, 2015
“This isn’t working! You’re only making them sexier!”
When you look at movies like Caddyshack II, The Hangover Part II, and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, one thing is clear: it’s damn near impossible to make a great comedy sequel. Why do these films pale in comparison to their predecessors? Is it because part of what makes comedy work in the first place is surprise, and by creating familiarity with a character or franchise, there’s less room for surprise? That’s certainly part of it.
That familiarity, however, is just a symptom of the cause of why comedy sequels often fail. Rarely are these films concerned with character development or story progression. It’s less about evolution and more about escalation. Characters remain largely unchanged while the emphasis is placed on making everything around them bigger and more outrageous. That’s what makes Nicholas Stoller‘s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising so interesting. It looks like a rehash of the director’s 2014 film, but it’s a sneakily progressive movie that outsmarts its equally funny predecessor.
Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) are expecting their second child and preparing to sell their home, which is subjected to a 30-day escrow. Things are looking up for the Radners until a newly established sorority, Kappa Nu, led by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), moves in next door. To stop the potential buyers from backing out, Mac and Kelly are forced to reunite with frat legend Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) to battle the sorority sisters.
The first Neighbors is about growing up and getting older, and how funny and bittersweet that can be. Mac and Kelly refuse to accept that they’re the uncool adults. In Sorority Rising, the Radners have accepted that they’re grownups, but they’re not ready for their kids to grow up. They’re worried that they’re terrible parents, and that one day their daughters will become rebellious teens and look at them with the same disdain for authority that they once did.
Speaking of rebellious teens, there’s the ladies of Kappa Nu. When we first meet Shelby, she’s lighting up a joint at a sorority rush event. Shelby and her newfound friends Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) came to college hoping to escape the restrictions of high school life. Instead, they find a system that controls them even more. Sororities, as the girls find out, aren’t allowed to throw parties. Only frats can. Which means, in order for women to exercise their God-given right to party, they must subject themselves to the sexual objectification of drunk, horny frat bros.
The empowered freshmen set out to establish a new sorority; a non-exclusive organization open to all, where women can participate on their own terms. Unfortunately for the Radners, this feminist movement against the sexist Greek system could cost them big time. They desperately need to sell their current place so they can move into their new home in the suburbs. If the buyers back out, they’re stuck with two places they can’t afford. They resort to desperate measures to shut Kappa Nu down: Teddy Sanders.
Stuck in a meaningless job without purpose or direction, Teddy is in the midst of a quarter-life crisis. While his frat buddies are finding success in their adult lives, Teddy just wants to feel valued. When the Radners enlist him to do what he does best, the former Delta Psi president jumps at the chance. Once he gets to know the women of Kappa Nu, however, Teddy questions everything he knows about frat life, including the age-old motto of “bros before hoes.”
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is extremely funny, surprisingly sweet, and refreshingly radical in its underlying feminist message: women can do whatever they want, even if that means acting like idiots and partying way too hard. For the women of Kappa Nu, it’s a valiant and noble pursuit. Who are we, the uncool adults of 2016, to stand in their way? After all, we once lived by the belief that “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party).”