"Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising"
Release Date: May 20, 2016
Running Time: 92 minutes
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising makes no pretense that it is a gender-flipping remake masquerading as a sequel. Director Nicholas Stoller and his co-writers have essentially taken the script for Neighbors and replaced every instance of “fraternity” with “sorority.” There are many callbacks to Neighbors, from married couple Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne engaging in sex in the opening scene to jokes involving exploding airbags and prolonged bro hugs. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is too familiar for its own good at times, even if Stoller et al. do underline this second clash between neighbors with a feminist twist that gives it a political edge over its “party till you drop” predecessor. The harried suburban couple played winningly by Rogen and Byrne now must contend with a rowdy off-campus sorority next door instead of the rowdy off-campus fraternity of Neighbors. But the problems remain the same for the Radners as the sorority girls party all night—this time in the name of equality. The reason? Per Neighbors 2, sororities legally aren’t allowed to throw parties. Technically, sororities can host social events but are not allowed to serve alcohol, but that still is definitely an outdated double standard. With their house in escrow, the Radners once again wage war against the interlopers who threaten their peace and quiet. Caught in the crossfire is Zac Efron’s Teddy Sanders. The former fraternity president initially helps Chloë Grace Moretz’s Shelby get the sorority off the ground. Once Shelby believes Teddy has outlived his usefulness, Teddy switches sides to work with the Radners, who are expecting their second child. Just as he was at the end of Neighbors, Teddy remains a party boy trapped in a man’s muscular body. He can’t put behind him his college days, he has zero career goals, and he feels abandoned when he’s asked to move out of the home of his newly engaged best friend (Dave Franco). Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising quickly transforms Teddy into the human equivalent of a minion. He would join ISIS if it meant feeling “valued.” To be fair, Tommy does have a moral compass, and he responds positively whenever Shelby and her sorority sisters address the inherent sexism they face daily on and off campus. Not that Neighbors ever went out of its way to truly degrade women. Remember, it was quite happy to exploit Efron’s rock-hard abs. Neighbors was felt like the 21st-century equivalent of Animal House or Porky’s in regards to the way it treated women. So Neighbors 2 doesn’t really have much to apologize for, and unlike Neighbors, it’s very much on the side of the antagonists as much as it is on the side of the Radners. Still, it’s refreshing for a comedy to unflinchingly tackle the subject of gender politics at a time when rape or sexual assault remains a concern for female university students. It’s certainly unexpected that a sequel to Neighbors would unfold as a celebration of sisterhood. But it also seems like a natural transition to take with this sequel considering Neighbors went out of its way to ensure Byrne’s Kelly Radner never conformed to the stereotype of the dotting or nagging wife that’s usually found in such R-rated romps. In both films, Kelly is as much a co-conspirator as Rogen’s Mac is for the comic mayhem that informs the neighborly feud. Also, the relationship between Mac and Kelly remains the franchise’s strongest asset. This is a couple that is deeply in love with each other and are always on the same wavelength. They have a strong marriage and an unwavering commitment to their daughter and unborn child, even if their parenting skills are less than perfect. Taking in a man-child such as Tommy doesn’t seem too much of a burden for the Radners. Tommy, though, is put in the position of being the third wheel for much of Neighbors 2 as he receives invaluable lessons in adulthood. Bearing this in mind, Neighbors 2 doesn’t suggest a third film in this franchise is imminent. Maybe in a decade or so, when the Radners’ daughter Stella is old enough to fly the coup, a third Neighbors could focus on her university exploits. Until then, though, it’s time to let the Radners go about their life without having to contend with another set of bad neighbors.
Aired: May 19, 2016
Web site: http://www.neighbors-movie.com/