The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING"

Neighbors 2

Nicholas Stoller's 2014 comedy Neighbors is not a movie that needed a sequel. Much like The Hangover, it had a great comedic story with a definitive ending. Also like The Hangover, it made enough money that a sequel was commissioned anyway. Giving credit where it's due, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising does add a very cool feminist twist, but that twist can't disguise the fact that the movie really isn't all that funny.

Chloe Grace Moretz plays Shelby, a college student who can't wait to join a sorority so that she can party. Upon pledging one, she discovers a shocking (true) fact: in the United States, sororities are not allowed to throw parties in their houses. She attends one at a frat house instead and is horrified by the rampant dude-bro mentality she sees. Together with fellow disenchanted pledges Beth (Dope's Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein, sister of Jonah Hill), she rents a vacant house to start an independent sorority called Kappa Nu that can have all the parties it wants. The house, of course, is the one right next to Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne). Their home is in escrow while they wait to purchase a new one in the suburbs. The couple nicely asks the girls to keep the partying down for a month, so as not to sour the deal with their potential buyers. Shelby and the gang won't hear of it. Thus begins another war, just like the one in the original movie. Mac and Kelly eventually call in former nemesis Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) to help them drive the sorority out.

Neighbors 2 is, by and large, a retread of the first film. While there are a few chuckle-inducing moments, certain gags are repeated so often that they stop seeming clever after a while. A running bit about Mac and Kelly's toddler daughter playing with a vibrator is one example. Other bits are recycled from the original (e.g. more airbag mishaps). The biggest problem, though, is that the editing is really sloppy. Many jokes are improperly set up, leaving their payoffs to dangle limply. Neighbors 2 feels very rushed. It bops rapidly and haphazardly from one scene to the next, never creating the kind of smooth flow that a story needs. And that's because there really isn't a story being told here. There's just a scenario being played out. Whereas the original took the time to dive into its core concept in a manner that was identifiable in a What would you do? kind of way, this sequel throws a lot of dots onscreen without ever truly connecting them.

The one thing the movie has working in its favor – and the thing that keeps it marginally afloat – is the feminist undertone. Shelby and her friends are seeking equality, even if it's only the equal right to get drunk or stoned in their own Greek house. That's a smart idea, and Neighbors 2 does some interesting things with it. Chief among them is the accurate reflection that, because they can't party in their own houses, sorority sisters have to go to fraternities, where the prevailing attitude is sexist at best, downright misogynist at worst. It's also admirable how the film shows Shelby and company eschewing the pressure to look “hot” all the time. Unlike the glamorous president of another sorority (played by Selena Gomez), they wear hoodies and jeans instead of revealing dresses, because they believe womanhood involves being comfortable with oneself rather than conforming to male attitudes.

When it sticks to the young women, Neighbors 2 works. When it pits them against the Radners, it's much less successful. This movie really should not have been a sequel at all. The story of a bunch of strong females bucking university conventions is engaging enough to warrant its own film. The makers of Neighbors 2 should have either made this a stand-alone picture or made the focus about Kappa Nu feuding with other Greek organizations and possibly the college itself. Rogen, Byrne, and Efron are all good, but quite frankly, the movie doesn't need their characters, especially since Moretz, Clemons, and Feldstein are so joyously committed to the material. The first three stars are appearing in a sequel; the latter three are here to do something far more progressive. It almost feels like an intrusion when the characters from the original show up.

Again, there are some scattered laughs in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. It's not the worst unnecessary comedy sequel ever made. That said, this is a movie where the strongest element – the female empowerment message – is so good that it emphasizes just how lazy and slapdash everything else is.

( 1/2 out of four)


Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is rated R for crude sexual content including brief graphic nudity, language throughout, drug use and teen partying. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.


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