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Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

May 20, 2016
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

In what’s becoming something of a pattern this year, Zac Efron is endlessly watchable, even as the movies around him are anything but. This time, it’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, the sequel to Neighbors that nobody wanted or needed.

Although, to be fair, the sequel is better than the original, though that’s not setting a very high bar. It’s built around a well-observed core, as if the first draft of the screenplay came from some staff writer on The Nightly Show. New student Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) finds that sororities — at least the major ones represented by the National Panhellenic Council — aren’t allowed to throw (alcohol-involved) parties. And the frat parties they’re left with are, well, kind of awful if you’re a young woman who doesn’t want to get sexually objectified and assaulted. Beth and Nora (Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein) agree, and they decide to start their own outside-the-system sorority, Kappa Nu.

Of course they need a house, which brings them to the abandoned and somewhat dilapidated Delta Psi house next door to Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne). And there they also find Teddy (Efron), who can’t seem to move on with his post-college life like all his friends have, so he agrees to mentor them.

Neighbors seemed to have left Mac and Kelly in somewhat of a detente with Teddy, so it’s not clear why he’s upset at them now, but still we need a more solid conflict. The young ladies need five buckets of rent money a month — Teddy did not major in accounting, it seems — which generally will be funded by throwing parties. Mac and Kelly have just sold their house, and they worry that big sorority parties will spook the buyers during escrow. They’re especially stuck because they stupidly bought their own new house without escrow, and if their buyers pull out they’ll be stuck with two houses and no way to pay both mortgages.

That’s just the first and most obvious example of an unfortunate change in Mac and Kelly’s characters. They may have been hapless and outmatched by Teddy and Delta Psi last time, but now they’re panicky and stupid. And it seems necessary since, despite the movie’s marketing, Kappa Nu doesn’t pose nearly the threat Delta Psi did. In fact, they barely pull any “pranks”, relying more on psychological gambits that only work because Mac and Kelly are, again, panicky and stupid. It’s about the laziest possible method to ensure the script goes the way the many writers intend it to.

And what they intend is to take this story — a group of young women who see the deck stacked against them, seek to change things for the better, lose their way, and find it again — and load it down with all the usual Seth Rogen/Nicholas Stoller physical and raunch comedy. I can’t even call it a stoner comedy because nothing ever really hinges on someone being affected by drugs in any way. Sure, the sisters decide to monopolize the pot market at one point, but the most stoned anyone gets is drifting off to sleep at the end of the whole sequence.

Right in the middle of all these ill-considered gags is Zac Efron, finding the pathos and humanity in a character whose world has passed him by. Some day he will find another script worthy of his abilities, but not until these same writers throw him through the wringer again two months from now.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: pass.

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