Just when we thought the Radner’s problems with their frat neighbors were over, the couple – now with another baby in the oven – are hit in the face with yet another dilemma as they attempt to sell their home: a sorority. Are things really as bad as they seem, or are they slowly becoming just another set of cantankerous curmudgeons?
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising return Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) to familiar territory, even if that means moving out of the neighborhood that brought them so much pain in the original film. It turns out that housing can be tricky, especially with fickle and complex terminology that seems beyond the Radners’ understanding. Their home is up for escrow, so for the next 30 days both the house and Radners must be in tip-top shape to convince potential buyers that the neighborhood is a viable option for their young family; queue in the sorority.
Led by plucky pothead outsider Shelby – played wonderfully by Chloe Grace Moritz – she and her sorority sisters Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) attempt to usurp and redefine the sorority as an institution for empowering and promoting young women. In the spirit of Cyndi Lauper, these rebellious freshman condemn the phallocentric and misogynist tacitly condoned fraternity parties that promote rape culture and bar women from having fun of their own. Their female counterparts have to settle with male frat parties where they are mere objects of sexual pleasure and entertainment for men.
Nevertheless, the clash between the Radners and the sisters escalates when former frat boy Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) joins forces with Shelby and company to enact a little vengeance on the family who sabotaged his fraternity. Only Teddy isn’t the confident party animal he once was. Realizing he’s not getting any younger and everyone around him is moving on, including his roommate and best friend Pete (Dave Franco) who’s about to tie the knot with his boyfriend (yes, as it turns out Pete was a closeted homosexual all along), leaving poor Teddy practically homeless.
Neighbors 2 goes through the motions and leaps through many of the same hoops as the original feature: Efron superfluously takes off his shirt, the air bag gag makes a return, Efron takes off his shirt again, and overall the plot is largely the same. One area where it rises above its predecessor as a film is by focusing on young women who want to party guilt free without the gawking and salivating of hypersexual uncouth proto-rapists, setting a progressive message to a low-brow premise. The feminism in the film is an impressive and debonair attitude that boldly commits to its ideology throughout while setting the film apart from your typical raunchy comedy.
But this sexual equality comes at a price, despite its refreshing ruminations on sexual politics, as the sequel lacks the same high-caliber hilarity the original Neighbors packed.
Despite its comedic shortcoming Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising manages to entertain for the near entirety of its 90-minute running time, even offering a few touching moments from the reluctant and self-deprecating Radner parents. As always, Rose Byrne is a standout as she continues to prove her comedic timing and prowess, stealing every scene she’s in from Seth Rogen (who’s rather bland in this performance). Even Efron shines in his reprisal of a down-and-out Teddy, offering some of the funnier and finer moments as the lonely frat boy who refuses to grow up (or old, for that matter). Overall, this sequel offers a fun, rambunctious, and infectious good time with plenty of silly and over-the-top hijinks to hold you over to the very end, proving that women can party just as hard – if not harder – than men.