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Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is not only less funny than the original Neighbors but loses a lot of its heart as it attempts to introduce new characters.
Characters Worth Noting
Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) | Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) | Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) | Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz)
Main Storyline (with Commentary)
After the growing pains of the first movie, Mr. and Mrs. Radner are closer than ever, going for baby #2, and are in the process of selling their house and getting a bigger place. That is until they learn what it means to “Be in Escrow.” Which, at first, isn’t an issue. The house next to them is empty, they maintained their own house well, and 30 days doesn’t seem like that long to wait to see if the new buyers may make a decision.
That is, until Kappa Nu. This new sorority, born out the desire to rebel against a greek system which lets boys party but not girls, is founded by Shelby, but mentored by Teddy. Someone who, with his life in ruin thanks to a criminal record on top of losing the frat, wants revenge. So he helps the girls rent the house next door and present Mac and Kelly new neighbors from hell.
Leaving us with a story dealing with girls finding themselves, promoting girl power, and yet that all getting thrown out the window once they need money. Much less, unlike in the original, there isn’t much in the way of growth. The girls are just doing one scheme after another to make rent and the Radners, with their friends, and eventually Teddy, are just trying to find ways to make sure they lose their house. Leading to us witnessing no real growth coming from either side in terms of the Radners being parents to a toddler, or soon to have a 2nd child, much less Shelby and her crew becoming adults. Teddy, on the other hand, has an inkling of growth, but not enough to compensate for the other characters.
Things To Note
Be ready for the vomiting moment early on in the movie.
Maybe my sense of humor has become rigid in the last two years, but in the original film, there were around 54 laughs over 97 minutes. With this film, it was about 25 in 92. Something which isn’t horrible, but certainly a downgrade. With that said, some jokes, like one dealing with a baby in the oven, are so wrong, but so funny.
There is a lack of chemistry (Chloe Grace Moretz is No Zac Efron)
What made the original so good is how Seth Rogen and Zach Efron played off each other. They were truly two good comedic actors throwing everything at each other in terms of jokes, physical comedy, and situational comedy. In this film, that is lost for Moretz just seems out of her league. I mean, yes, in Kick Ass she was funny, but she was funny due to the shock of her being young and her character being violent and vulgar. In this film, that is lost. Shelby is touted as a virgin girl, who had a strict dad, and had no friends in high school. She is stripped of her shock and with that, she is just a normal girl who likes to smoke weed, party and be a proud feminist. All of which doesn’t mold well with Seth Rogen’s stoner growing up trope he is in the process of perfecting.
Not to say she doesn’t make you laugh, but she makes you laugh when it is just her and her friends of Kappa Nu. When Kappa Nu goes against the Radners though, you get this weird dynamic of Rogen trying to not carry the film, but instead sort of push Moretz to be like Efron was in the first movie. That is, Rogen having an equal who he could fully playoff, and may even make it so he isn’t carrying the film. Unfortunately for Rogen though, in an attempt to try to do like was done with Efron, in terms of showing off how funny Moretz could be, something went horribly wrong. Of which, I can only assume was the chemistry and trying to reconcile the idea of having a grown man face off against a girl whose main crime is that she is trying to be free and make friends after growing up in an oppressive environment. That is, as opposed to when Mac was against Teddy who was not only more formidable, but more of a douche who you could love to hate, and then just love as you realized how pathetic he was during his senior year of college.
Rose Bryne feels downgraded
A part of me thinks that if it wasn’t for Bryne being pregnant, and thus unable to sort of switch with Rogen and take lead, things might have been better. For I think the chemistry between Rogen and Efron stems from the fact that Rogen’s films often deal with bromance and things of that nature. Making it so Bryne stepping in when it comes to facing off with a young girl would seem only natural, but sadly not a real option. Add in that she seems like she was put on the bench often, and increasingly it made it where Rogen seemed desperate for someone to play off of and Efron just trying to remind us of the magic the first movie had.
Too Many Characters (No One Really Grows Up or Gets Developed)
In the film we have Mac, Kelly, and their friends; Teddy and his frat bros; and then Shelby and his sorority sisters. This leads to the film being unable to handle both making sure everyone gets an equal share of the jokes, much less get developed. I mean, just in comparison to the original, there is no Efron and Franco like chemistry when it comes to the girls. They are just thrown together and while there maybe Instagram photos of Kiersey Clemons (who plays Shelby’s best friend Beth – and what feels like a token Black girl) and Chloe Grace Moretz hanging out on Instagram, there isn’t this sense of these two could be real friends.
Also, as noted in the overview, there is no heart. For while the Radners do question their parenting, especially since their daughter’s favorite toy is a dildo, there isn’t that same “Aw damn, we are actually adults now” vibe the first movie had replaced by them realizing they are on their way to a second kid. And while Teddy does finish his development into an adult with a career, unfortunately, the same exploration he had to get there isn’t given to the girls.
Now, I should note, Shelby and friends are freshmen and Teddy was introduced as a senior, but even then you’d think these girls would have more to them than starting off as girls getting their first taste of freedom to solely knowing how to pay rent for their sorority, thanks to Teddy, by throwing parties. After all, let’s factor that as freshmen they are likely just learning about themselves, trying to leave high school behind, are in the process of figuring out what they want to do with their life, on top of figuring out how to pay rent, dealing with sexism, and solidifying their sisterhood. Just as an example to show you how horrible these characters are written, you don’t even get to know what the hell they are majoring in.
Something which to me is sad for it makes it seem that either Rogen and his team have no idea how to write young women, or that Moretz and the other girls were solely brought on for name recognition. All just for the sake of making some money and not presenting a different point of view than what Rogen and partner Evan Goldberg often bring to cinema.