Movie Review: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Sorority sisters take on the family next door in this gross-out, faux-feminist comedy

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising


Directed by Nicholas Stoller. Starring Seth Rogen, Chloë Grace Moretz, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Selena Gomez, Kiersey Clemons, Carla Gallo, Ike Barinholtz, Lisa Kudrow, Billy Eichner, Ian Gregg, Hannibal Buress, Beanie Feldstein, Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Written by Nicholas Stoller, Andrew J. Cohen, Evan Goldberg, Brendan O’Brien, Seth Rogen.

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One of the recurring jokes in the new comedy sequel Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising involves infants playing with sex toys.

“Is that a dildo?” a real estate agent asks our heroes in the film’s opening scene.

“It’s, uh, a popular children’s TV character of the day,” Seth Rogen’s Mac Radner explains.

The first time the gag showed up, I’ll admit to a begrudging chuckle. The sixth or seventh time, as the movie ups the ante of the sex toy’s realism, it’s just uncomfortable. The joke is that the new parents are poor guardians. But isn’t it the filmmakers who are being irresponsible?

And so goes Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, a film that wants to be rude & crude but also liberal and tolerant and you-go-girl feminist. But it doesn’t seem to realize that the content of its racy gags often contradicts the intended message.

But, more importantly, this is just a lame re-hash of the previous film, which wasn’t all that great to begin with.

Neighbors 2 stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Shelby, a college freshman who is shocked to learn that sororities don’t allow alcohol or drugs, and they can’t throw parties. Wait, what? Why?

“Google it!” the movie not-so-subtly tells us through Selma Gomez. I did Google it, and it’s inexplicably true. This New York Times article suggests that forcing sisters to have their fun at frat parties instead of in the safety of their own houses leads to a significant increase in campus sexual assault. 

Now, this is potentially powerful subject matter. But perhaps, just perhaps, a raunchy, racy, out-and-out vulgar college comedy is not the best vehicle to deliver it.

You can guess what happens: after being grossed out by the frat party bozos, depicted through – shock, horror, a fat guy – Shelby decides to start up her own sorority that can drink and smoke pot and party on their own terms. (Those terms: a Hilary Clinton-themed party that mimics the earlier movie’s De Niro bash.)

Of course, they set up house next to Mac (Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) and their dildo-loving young daughter, just as the family’s home goes into escrow and the buyer has 30 days to back out if anything funny starts going down.

Cue a prank war as the sisters attempt to raise enough money to pay the rent – and throw epic parties that never get weird or sexual – and Mac and Kelly, who want them evicted as soon as possible. Strangely, while the plot dictates that the story take place during the 30 days the Radner’s need for the sale to go through, the sorority is constantly in danger of being evicted due to failure to pay rent. Are they paying by the week?

Caught in the middle of it all is Zac Efron’s Teddy, the fraternity lead from the previous film who switches allegiance between the sorority sisters and the Radners for reasons of plot contrivance.

Efron not only effortlessly steals the movie despite being a mere side presence, but the journey of his airhead fratboy from dude to bro somehow becomes the most resonant storyline in a film that prides itself on grrrl power and glossy feminist ideals.

And as we start to question the way Efron’s character is ogled through every frame and sexualized in ways the filmmakers wouldn’t dream of applying to the female characters (well, heck: he does have one of the most finely-tuned physiques ever to grace the screen), we’ve delved far enough into the psyche of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

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