Comedy sequels are really hard to get right these days. Try to stick too much to the original and you have the danger of being repetitive. Stray too far away from the stuff that people liked about the first one and you have the risk of angering them. But every now and then Hollywood manages to get it right and such is the case with Nicholas Stroller’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising which manages to avoid both those things to deliver a genuinely funny sequel that offers several throwback jokes to its predecessor while also being able to develop new ideas, themes and gags that represents some legitimate inventiveness on the part of the filmmakers.
The sequel picks up a few years after the events of the first one. Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Bryne) are ready to make their final move into adulthood and have another baby on the way until, a the unruly sisters of Kappa Nu move in next door, who prove to be even worse than the previous fraternity next door they successfully ousted. As the loud parties threaten the sale of their home, the couple turn to ex-neighbor and one-time enemy Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) for help. Now united they devise schemes to get the wild sorority off the block. Unfortunately, the rebellious young women refuse to go down without a fight.
I guess the biggest change this movie makes over the first one is its introduction of a feminist and more female empowering theme. The sorority girls lead by Chloe Grace Moretz are sick of having to party in the sleazy bro-centric world of fraternities, which is why they’ve set out to create their own place to smoke weed, get laid, and basically act like college kids. And I think it’s really nice to see a vulgar comedy that makes sure that young women are the participants, and not simply the observers.
But I also think this movie shouldn’t be mistaken for knee-jerk activism. While it does explore themes of empowering women, in the raunchy comedy way it can, the screenwriters never bang you over the head with it. And the movie never forgets to be really funny too, which happens thanks to the fantastic chemistry between Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and Rose Bryne, who made the first movie so good, as well as the introduction of Chloe Grace Moretz as the leader of the sorority who’s the antagonist, but also manages to come off as a genuinely likable and relatable character. And I guess the best thing about this movie has to be that really perfect balance between laugh-out –loud comedy and some genuine heart which comes in part to the charming and well-written characters which in turn makes the movie equally charming and watchable.
Altogether, I think Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is a really funny and worthy sequel to the first Neighbors that feels fresh and original. While I do think, the first Neighbors is slightly funnier, Sorority Rising is definitely smarter.