The 2014 comedy hit Neighbors was for me one of the more refreshing comedies in recent years. It not only had many big laughs, and a killer cast, but there was even a surprising sincere heart underneath it all. But with that being said, despite my immense enjoyment of the original film, I couldn’t approach this new sequel with much enthusiasm. Like most comedies, Neighbors was a simple premise that did not require a necessary follow-up. And I think the most obvious reason for concern here is, how many of us can actually think of comedy sequels that have actually been good? They’re not exactly a dime in a dozen to find unfortunately.
However, there are rare exceptions, and this charming if familiar sequel is one of them.
Neighbors 2 takes us a few years after the events of the first film, where we see Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) are expecting a second child, and in the meantime are looking at selling their home to another married couple. Everything seems to be going their way as they begin to plan on moving to their newly found house, but of course complicating these plans is a new sorority group of girls, Kappa Nu lead by Shelby (Chloe Moretz) is moving in the house next door to the house the Radner’s are trying to sell. Now having difficulty in selling this house, the Radner’s turn to their former enemy, Teddy (Zac Efron) in help bringing down and force the sorority girls to move out of the house.
First and foremost, much like the previous installment this sequel solely relies on the shoulders of its A-game cast. By this point in his career Seth Rogen is pretty much Seth Rogen in just about every single role, but with his natural charisma and comedic timing he’s able to just about elevate every material he’s given to work with. Rose Byrne gives yet another impressive comedic turn here, she’s one of the most versatile actresses working today and an especially criminally underrated comedic performer. The authentic spark Rogen and Byrne previously shared is just as much fun to watch this time around. It’s just a pure joy to watch Byrne as the more wild, out of control partner of this marriage. I found the surprising Zac Efron to be perhaps the biggest standout of the first Neighbors, possessing a natural comedic ability he had yet to really showcase before and once again I think he almost steals the show here. Seeing his character Teddy now team up with the Radner’s really made for much of the film’s biggest laughs, it’s a wonderful core and it made me realize just how much simply charmed I am by these main characters. We have some wonderful supporting players reprising their roles again from Ike Barinholtz, Kiersey Clemons, Jerrod Carmichael, and Dave Franco one of the biggest highlights of the first film. Everyone plays off each other exceptionally well, and it’s fun to see where these characters are now.
The laughs throughout Sorority Rising are hit or miss, there’s a handful of gags that are stretch longer than they deserve to be (one notable gag involving a dildo that is way overplayed), but the laughs that do land are consistent and hit more often than they miss overall. There’s a few scenes in particular that by the end of the year might go down for me as some of the funniest scenes of any movie this year. What impresses me with both of these movies is how they’re not afraid to tackle themes that are very relevant. “Neighbors” showed our main characters coping with adulthood, where as with “Neighbors 2” we get maybe the most progressive comedy of the year. It’s not significantly deep by any means, in fact the way this film tackles serious topics such as sexism, and feminism is borderline heavy handed, but there’s an undeniable sincerity as well here.
Ultimately my biggest issue with this sequel are these new sorority girls. They’re not particularly charming, or mostly importantly funny. I’m a big fan of Chloe Moretz, she’s arguably one of the best young actresses of today, and she has a few good moments with the main cast, but like the other girls, it’s mostly a one note and at times obnoxious performance. I get it, these girls are meant to be kind of annoying, clearly the film wants us to side with the Radner’s and Teddy, but even with the first film, the frat boys there were actually funny and had their own individual charismatic personalities.
In a time we’re so used to comedy sequels recycling the same exact beats from the original, and lose every bit of charm in doing so, it’s refreshing to see one such as Neighbors 2 retain that irresistible charm and wit that made it so memorable in the first place. No, this sequel is not as sharp, or quite as gut busting funny as the first, and it does sure feel just a bit more of the same, but it delivers on the laughs and reminded me why I kind of fell in love with these characters in the first place. Do I need another of these? Not really, because this definitely felt like the pitch perfect closure for the Radner’s, Teddy and company, and I was sure happy to revisit these guys again.