You may not appreciate the humor of Seth Rogen and his writing partner, Ethan Goldberg (although, why are you reading this review if you don’t), but credit them for always putting a lot of heart into their raunchy comedies. From Superbad to This is the End to The Night Before, the childhood buds manage to tug at the heart strings in between drug jokes, Satan and tarnishing the holidays. The pair is at it once again in their recent summer film, Neighbors 2, a sequel to Neighbors, the 2014 film Rogen starred in and co-produced with Goldberg. While not as strong as the original film, Neighbors 2 has enough laughs and, yes, heart, to satisfy fans of the first one.
All of the major players are back, including director Nicholas Stoller and co-stars Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Ike Barinholz, Carla Gallo and Dave Franco. The film opens in typical Rogen/Goldberg fashion: Rogen and Byrne’s married couple, Mac and Kelly, are having sex and she vomits all over his face. This is her realization that she’s pregnant with their second child. The parents put their house on the market and buy a new suburban home, hoping that everything will go smoothly.
As they enter a 30-day escrow period, Mac and Kelly are on pins and needles hoping that nothing goes wrong and that their buyers don’t pull out of the sale. Luckily, the fraternity that lived next door to them in the first Neighbors has moved away, leaving only a vacant shell that still reeks of sex and dope. Unfortunately, Mac and Kelly don’t have the best of luck.
On the local college campus, three incoming freshman ladies find themselves disgusted by the double standard between fraternities and sororities. A university rule states that no on-campus sorority house can throw a party, which leaves only the degrading, misogynistic frat raves for the freshman to attend. The three women, Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein), decide to create their sorority in order to party like the boys. But how can they pull it off? That’s where Efron’s Teddy comes in.
Since graduation, he and his best friend Pete (Franco) have been rooming together. Pete has it all, including a great boyfriend/fiancé and a well paying job. Teddy has… his abs. When Pete asks Teddy to move out, the sad sack Abercrombie & Fitch clerk runs away to the only place he felt safe: his old frat house. There he meets Shelby, Beth and Nora and takes them under his wing to teach them how to run an off campus party house. It goes swimmingly, until he develops a conscience and tries to teach them to be more responsible.
For Mac and Kelly, it’s the dilemma of the first Neighbors all over again. For Teddy, it’s a chance to look deep inside himself as he tries to figure out what he wants to do with his life. And for the sorority ladies, they feel that what they’re doing is a feminist statement, that college girls shouldn’t have to lower themselves to degrading standards in order to fit in. They should be able to get shitfaced and puke wherever they want.
Because there are so many characters and so much ground to cover in Neighbors 2, the film isn’t as cohesive as the first and feels like a series of sight gags slapped together. I appreciate Teddy’s plight and he provides most of the heart in this film. However, in order to meet a tight running time, may of the scenes seem to cut off just after the joke and reactions and hurry to the next set-up. The jokes are hit and miss, some feeling like a rehash of the first Neighbors. However, when they hit they are gut busters.
All of the actors are excellent, although with so many stories to follow, Kiersey Clemons is relegated to the sidelines. For anyone who saw Dope last year, you know that she’s a versatile actress and deserves more time in the spotlight. Rose Byrne continues to marvel as one of the most versatile actresses working today. Whether co-starring in comedies like this one, action films like the X-Men films, or searing dramas (if you’ve never watched Damages do so now), she’s brilliant.
The Blu-ray combo pack for Neighbors 2 comes with DVD and digital code. Bonus features include a gag reel, deleted scenes, featurettes about the making of the film, a look at the returning characters, and a look at the new ones added for this film, It also includes feature commentary with Co-writer/director Nicholas Stoller and Producer James Weaver. It’s available now.