Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising review
Making a comedy sequel without a contrived plot seems to be one of the biggest challenges facing major production studios in this blockbuster era, and yet Universal Studios thinks they can do it again with a follow-up to Neighbors. (Original Neighbors review here: http://www.immersiononline.net/film/Neighbors-review) How many successful comedies have worthy sequels? Not many. (Pitch Perfect 2 was okay and nobody cares about Horrible Bosses 2.) Luckily, Universal Studios has an ace up its figurative sleeve in writer/ director Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement, Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Stoller directed the newest comedy sequel to hit cinemas in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, which held its own at the box office to land ahead of fellow new wide release The Nice Guys. While Stoller fails to deliver a sequel better in overall quality than its first chapter, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising will surely surprise viewers expecting another sequel to rehash the jokes that made the first part a success as the director takes a logical next step for the characters introduced in his 2014 film.
Stoller, having directed comedy successes Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Neighbors, should receive a particular, special award for what he’s accomplished as a filmmaker. Helming studio comedies can be an arduous task, with studio heads constantly meddling and movie stars not taking their roles as seriously as a drama…or an original comedy. Not only does Stoller make Neighbors 2 feel organic in terms of narrative, it isn’t the first time he accomplished as much. In 2010, he released Get Him to the Greek, a spin-off/ sequel to his 2008 freshman film Forgetting Sarah Marshall. While not a romantic comedy in the same vein as its original material, Get Him to the Greek found a wide audience with expertly-timed crude insanity. At least Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising flows in the same vein asits preceding entry, allowing the writer/ director for more references to the first part. Making a critically-approved and audience-adored film seems difficult enough, and then making a sequel to that film is even harder. Stoller accomplished this feat twice.
The returning cast each pick back up easily with their roles. Seth Rogen (The Night Before, Kung Fu Panda 3) and Rose Byrne (X-Men: Apocalypse, Spy) continue to star as a young couple of questionable parents, the Radners, living next to a housing unit for members of the Greek community. Now looking to move out due to their growing family, these two look to sell their home right when a brand new sorority moves in next door to them. Zac Efron (Dirty Grandpa, We Are Your Friends) continues his role as Teddy. Teddy, depressingly seeking a taste of his university glory days, foists himself upon a group of freshman girls looking to form a sorority in the house he once lived in with his fraternity brothers. A lot of the other returning cast appears in cameo form. Dave Franco (Now You See Me 2, 21 Jump Street) has an extended cameo as one of Teddy’s old friends experiencing an easier post-college adjustment. Perhaps the most notable is the brief, but efficiently hilarious pop-in from Hannibal Buress (The Nice Guys, Angry Birds—note that the actor/ comedian appeared in all three new wide releases this past weekend) as Officer Watkins on a gleeful spree of arrests.
Series newcomer Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Hugo) plays Shelby, a plucky freshman girl and gives a performance so likeable that it confuses the plot. Shelby and a couple friends attempt to join a sorority at movie’s start but quickly find out the life they expected in a sorority (led by pop star Selena Gomez in a cameo) wasn’t as glamorous in reality—mainly because sororities are forbidden to throw parties, which, for better or worse, forces any sorority sisters looking to unwind from classes and studying to seek entertainment at a fraternity house. Shelby and a few friends contemplate how many girls just want to party without the presence of shallow, chauvinistic bros in their midst. It should be noted that actor/ comedian Billy Eichner (“Difficult People,” “Parks and Recreation”)also joined the cast in a welcome addition cameo as the sorority’s realtor.
When these ladies realize they can enjoy a party without a male influence, it becomes a problem for the Radners, who just rid a fraternity from the same house next door in Neighbors. Shelby and her sisters spend the majority of their screen time making a stand for women in the Greek community, but still serve as antagonists when all is said and done. Despite the fact that Shelby is the villain by default, it’s easy to root for her character because it’s obvious the real bad guys are a few creepy dudes from the same community whom the girls spend the film largely avoiding for a myriad of simple reasons.
Stoller explores logical next steps for his returning characters and creates a natural dilemma for a comedy sequel having his protagonists explore the glorious world of escrow after having moved in to the home during the 2014 original. The antagonistic sorority fluidly produces a sound conflict to upset the Radners’ escrow problems to create a sequel with many funny situations, but perhaps too many likable characters After the first act of the movie, each of the three factions: Radners, Teddy, and Shelby have a similar amount of screen time and just as much reason and opportunity to lash out as the next. Perhaps in the director’s search for a non-contrived sequel, he produced too much of a good thing? Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising presents almost too many characters to root for in a ninety-minute movie seeking to tackle gender equality and the nightmare of escrow while starting a family. It’s a lot easier to watch if one considers all the characters as a fool on one level or another.