Sunday, May 22, 2016

Movie Review #425: "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" (2016)

Movie"Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising"
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
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Mac (Seth Rogen) and a pregnant Kelly (Rose Byrne) have just sold their home, and now, they must simply wait out their 30 day escrow period and hope the buyer doesn't pull out of the sale. Unfortunately, a newly founded sorority named Kappa Nu has just moved in next door and is looking to smash the patriarchal Greek sisterhood system and party to their heart's content. Now, Mac and Kelly, who have already purchased another house in a newer part of town, have to keep their buyers from finding out about the sorority until escrow closes or face financial ruin.

Nicholas Stoller's "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" is the sequel to his 2014 hit comedy "Neighbors."  Returning to portray their roles from the first film are stars Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Ike Barinholtz, and Carla Gallo. These original cast members are joined by Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Jerrod Carmichael in much smaller reprisals. New to the cast are ChloĆ« Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, and Beanie Feldstein. This is quite the ensemble cast, but as we know all too well, big names don't necessarily equal a great final product, just look at the recent "Mother's Day" for proof of this. Much like the first film, Mac and Kelly, played by Rogen and Byrne, find themselves in an all-out battle with a group of college students. The main difference is, instead of a fraternity filled with douchey college guys, now they are dealing with a sorority that wants to become independent. In the U.S., sororities are not allowed to throw parties in their own houses, which means women have to rely on fraternities to throw the parties. Now, Kappa Nu, lead by a trio of college freshmen named Shelby, Beth, and Nora played by Moretz, Clemons, and Feldstein, want to change all that. They want to be the first sorority that can party, do drugs, and break the sexist system of the past. They plan to do this in the house next door to Mac and Kelly, who have just sold their home and are in escrow. Unfortunately, living next to a hardcore partying sorority puts all of this in jeopardy.

As two people who describe themselves as feminists, the overall message of equality and smashing down sexist gender barriers in "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" is admirable. This film also shines a light on the objectification of women in fraternities and sororities, as well as the ongoing problem of sexual assault and rape on (and off) college campuses. However, message aside, this is a comedy, and like all comedies, the most important thing is how much it makes you laugh. We definitely got a couple of good, solid laughs in, but it didn't make us laugh nearly as much as the original "Neighbors" did. For some reason, the sorority is far less sympathetic than the fraternity, which is horrible to say and this is not coming from a place of gender bias. The 'battle' in the original seemed to be more about two groups of people butting heads trying to out-prank each other. However, the actions committed by the sorority start to enter the realm of major federal crimes that could come with hefty prison sentences, and for some reason, no one thinks to call the cops. Most of the laughs in this movie come from Rogen, Byrne, Efron, and Barinholtz and their funny quips and banter with and between one another. The women in the sorority almost always miss the intended comedic mark. It's truly saying something when a comedy about female empowerment contains few to no jokes where the women are the ones making the audience laugh. This would be the real change, we think. Many of the running gags are also very trite and are stupid within the first five second of hearing them. For some reason, directors seem to think sex toys are absolutely hilarious and need to be mocked at every opportunity. This is exactly what "Neighbors 2" does ten-fold as the plot keeps finding a way to bring it all back to that tired old dildo joke. There are a lot of recycled gags from the original, some of which are still funny even if they have been done before. Zac Efron is also surprisingly good in this movie as his character dives deeper in self-exploration, and many times, he realizes the things he has done in the past might not have been the best way to act or behave. Maybe Efron has taken a class on comedic timing since "Dirty Grandpa" because his performance sure seems better here. As always, Byrne and Rogen have excellent chemistry, and we really enjoy watching their relationship play out on screen.

In the end, though this movie can be funny at times, it falls a bit short of its predecessor, showing that it take more than just a good message to make a good comedy.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~61%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.
One year ago, we were watching: "The Water Diviner"

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