Of every kind of movie to make none seems as difficult as making a quality comedy sequel. The biggest issue that faces comedy sequels is their predilection to basically act as if the prior movie never happened and thus reverting its characters back to square one so they can recreate their previous hijinks on a bigger scale. But in all my years of watching movies I don’t think I’ve encountered a comedy sequel that was superior to its predecessor. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is that rare comedy sequel that surpasses its predecessor, repeating the premise of the original while building upon the characters from when we last saw them. This is a raucous comedy with some real intelligence behind it as it lampoons the double standards imposed upon young women without diminishing its raunchy edges.
Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) have just purchased a new home and are locked into the transaction. As for their old home, they are selling it and have just moved into the escrow process, giving the potential buyer 30 days to back out for any reason at all. Meanwhile, Teddy (Zac Efron) is having a hard time adjusting to life outside of fraternity, working in retail while all of his best friends have moved on to careers.
At the nearby university, Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) is eager to pledge to a sorority, only to find that the sororities are prohibited from hosting their own parties and can only attend parties thrown by the fraternities. Upon attending her first frat party, Shelby is repulsed by the lecherous bros that are eager to objectify any young women that dare enter their frat house. Determined to forge her own path, Shelby and her new friends Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) create Kappa Nu, their own new sorority. In their search for a sorority house, they discover that the spacious home next to Mac and Kelly is available for rent. While touring the home, the young women encounter a despondent Teddy, who finds purpose in trying to recreate his glory days by coaching them how to start their sorority and earn the money to keep it going. Kappa Nu starts throwing their own parties at their new home, which places the sale of Mac and Kelly’s home in jeopardy.
From the opening to the closing scenes, Neighbors 2 provides thorough, hearty laughs of almost every form of comedy – there’s the physical comedy of pratfalls and calamity; dialogue-based humor that alternates between smart and stupid in an amusing way; and then there’s the situational humor where the premise of a scene leads to comedic escalation. Each and every scene in the film provides ample humor of varying degrees of taste, such as a Mac and Kelly’s young daughter’s favorite toy being her mother’s vibrator. All of the comedic hijinks are given an ample boost by some impressive supporting players, including hilarious moments from Ike Barinholtz, Billy Eichner, Hannibal Buress, Lisa Kudrow, Jerrod Carmichael, and Abbi Jacobson. There’s also a surprise cameo that would best remain a surprise.
Making a comedy sequel that is funny in the first place is impressive enough, but what director Nicholas Stoller and the five credited screenwriters (Stoller, Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Andrew Jay Cohen, and Brendan O’Brien) do with the subject matter is what really stands out. Efron’s Teddy has reached the limits of his frat life, and the character is searching for his real purpose in life. In searching to be valued, Teddy tries to relive his past through the sorority only to find that he can’t live in the past forever. It’s a really bold move in making the brash, arrogant Teddy from the last film vulnerable and Efron gives an incredibly assured performance in the role. Yet there are still numerous hilarious moments with the character, like when he’s faced with the realization that some of his past frat behavior was egregiously sexist.
Neighbors 2 toes the line between social commentary without coming across as preachy, and always finding the maximum levels of humor in skewering sexism in society. The young women of Kappa Nu want to party with the same freedom as the frats who get a pass with the “boys will be boys” mentality. Instead of waiting for permission, these young women forge their own path despite the objections of their neighbors. Even when faced a desperate moment, the young women of Kappa Nu attempt to pander to the frat house element in throwing a massive party only to realize that being true to themselves yields better results. It’s also astoundingly funny when Rogen’s Mac and Barinholtz’s Jimmy go through crash courses in sexism, trying to wrap their heads around the double standards that their own mentalities reinforce. Jimmy even goes as far to say that when boys have sex it’s awesome but when girls do it it’s gross. Time and time again, Neighbors 2 is about confronting the double standards imposed upon young women by society, but always in a resoundingly humorous manner.
For a tad over 90 minutes, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising balances some incredibly raunchy humor with a sharp sense of social commentary. It’s a comedy that is firing on all cylinders, one that keeps you entertained as it makes its points. However, nothing is labored in Neighbors 2 as it just glides along from one amusing moment to the next. This is a movie that will find itself in the pantheon of comedy sequels, joining excellent works such as Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, and 22 Jump Street. Neighbors 2 is one of hell of a party, complete with unexpected moments and a certain level of smarts. It’s really quite the rare breed.