Bad Neighbours 2 (also known as Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) is not only consistently funny throughout but also proves to be plugged into very-present identity politics and the social zeitgeist. It sets a breakneck pace as the Radner’s (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) find themselves embroiled in a new turf war – one that places the pending sale of their home at risk – and must turn to frat king, and former enemy, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), to help them.
Life has been good Mac and Kelly – they have a second child on the way, and are in the final steps of selling their home and moving to a bigger place – until the renegade sisters of Kappa Nu sorority, led by the impressionable Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) move in next door. Disgusted by the frat party they attend, and the campus policy that sororities cannot throw their own, Shelby, Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) decide to start their own, turning to party maestro Teddy for guidance. Teddy, whose male modelling career hasn’t taken off, has just been evicted from his own place, following the engagement and desired domesticity of his best pal Pete (Dave Franco). A step back into the past leads to his path crossing with the sisters, who are clueless about how to finance a sorority house. As their loud parties continuously threaten Mac and Kelly’s 30-day escrow, Teddy switches sides vowing to help the couple fight the sorority off the block via any means possible.
Tackling millennial gender politics, sexual equality and female empowerment while continuing to explore the challenging acclimation to post-college adulthood and the trials and tribulations of parenting, Bad Neighbours 2 has some stinger lines and outrageous sequences. What lets the sequel down somewhat are the occasional whiffs of ‘desperate cash-grab’ and the fact that the sorority sisters aren’t as well-developed as the fraternity dude-bros in the preceding film, and while their self-empowerment, and attempts to subvert the sexist campus politics, are essential to the make-up of this film, the laughs just don’t quite connect as often.
In their swift rise to college fame one has to forego a lot of doubt; as the sorority squeeze in a lot of parties (and seemingly plan and elaborately-promote overnight) in the Radner’s 30-day escrow period. We have to accept that their fierce commitment and savvy business manoeuvres are due to the influence of Teddy, as they transform from jittery freshwomen to scheming drug-peddlers in a couple of weeks. It is this change in character that does fall victim to the film’s rapid pace, and once the war hits we still feel like we’re figuring these girls out.
Moretz proves to be a committed foil, and the veteran young actress has now pretty much tackled every genre. Kiersey Clemons, whom many will recognise from energetic indie comedy Dope, is again impressive in a supporting role. But, every sequence with a combination of Rogen, Byrne and Efron is pure gold, whether it is Rogen and Byrne cluelessly navigating the unpredictable waters of parenthood – coming to the realisation that they cannot even control or influence one child, and are terrified about the other one on the way – or Rogen and Efron contemplating on the process of boiling an egg. Rogen has to be one of the most likeable comedic actors in the business. He is always on; and brilliantly riffs off the talents of his co-stars, including Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo (who return, and participate in memorable fashion again). Efron’s screen career continues to be fascinating, and while his talents come in may forms, it is a touch of genius that Stoller and his creative team has utilised his ridiculous good looks for comic benefit.
There are some gross moments – the opening sequence is hilariously disgusting – but they are either dealt with a side of sweetness or subverted to challenge the audience to consider why they are gross. One prank involving ‘used-tampon grenades’ is dismissed as ‘too-far’ by Teddy, but the girls reciprocate, declaring that it would have been considered funny if it was a ‘bag of dicks’. Teddy agrees, shifting from disgust to amusement. Both are gross, but the film quite cleverly asks what makes one prank dismissible and the other unforgivable?
The first film achieved this balance well, as the relationship between Teddy and Pete ultimately remained stronger than the fraternity they tried desperately to keep alive. Here, Teddy starts to value Marc as an older-brother or father-figure; someone who has taken him in from the wilderness when he felt abandoned and without a family, while Kelly relishes the moment she can use her age and wisdom to council the young troublemakers. The sisters also come to value their friendship over selling-out and becoming the women they never wanted to be. It was the relationships, amidst the impressions, stoner-humour and dildo fights that gave the first film surprisingly depth, and that is again at the forefront here.
The film’s central set piece – a dramatic culture festival heist set to the tune of Kanye West’s ‘Black Skinhead’ – is an incredible sequence of chaotic lunacy, and worth the price of admission alone, but if you’re looking for some huge laughs there have been few comedies this year to offer such a good time.
By Andrew Buckle
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Writer(s): Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloe Grace Moretz, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz
Runtime: 93 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: May 5, 2016