Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Neighbors was by far one of my most favorite comedies released in recent years, so Neighbors 2 was an easy sell for me. I didn’t expect it to be as good as the first film, but I also wasn’t expecting it to be terrible. Turns out one of those assumptions was dead wrong…
Neighbors 2 is basically a copy and paste job of the first film with all the good parts removed. Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) find themselves moving out of the house made popular in the first film, but they have a 30 day escrow notice. At this point in their lives they have their little girl (plus a new baby), and they continue to age like they did in the first film with more adulthood questions blooming in their heads. Trouble happens when a sorority house moves in next door (the same house that gave them issues previously) potentially scaring off their new buyers and forcing them into bankruptcy if the buyers back out of escrow.
The movie follows the same path as the first with the sorority house causing problems by being loud and disruptive, and a “prank war” begins to go off. The movie holds itself back with so many other issues going on, however, that nothing really develops. A rivalry that was created in the first film never develops with the new sorority. The entire film balances on the idea that “it is against the law” for sororities to have parties because only frat houses can host them. So the sorority is supposed to set out to prove that theory wrong, while also hosting parties that are more female friendly. There was something deeper hinted along the way, but nothing came of it.
I personally had no idea where the writers of this movie were trying to go. I thought the overall objective of having a female driven version of the first movie was a great idea, but the film spirals out of focus with no clear cut objective. The film then utilizes the feminism topic to simply get away with jokes, while being totally hypocritical in the opposite direction.
What Went Wrong
The movie opens up how you expect..the exact same way as the first film, with jokes thrown in right off the bat. In this case Mac and Kelly are having sex and she throws up on him. While raunchy, it worked. I figured we were in for a ride. Then the film takes certain perks of the first film and extends it further, like their baby playing with a vibrator, and it makes you laugh. I laughed because I thought it was just taking pot shots at the original film and then going to carry forward, but it never stops. The film continues to ruin jokes from the original film by simply doing it again, but with an extreme twist to it. It was like the first film was a road map and they needed to stop and make sure to include all the jokes and intensify whatever they came across.
This got old quickly. Instead of one fluent idea and story throughout the film, it was like 5 different people all throwing ideas into the wind and the film carrying forward with them all. Jokes were randomly done and if we were watching small skits it might work, but as a feature film it was totally broken in every way possible. Basically the crew was going “oh yeah, let’s throw this joke in too!” and randomly an air bag would explode, or the characters would pretend a prank war was happening. There was no direction and the film was all over the place simply so they could find ways to put jokes in.
Instead of a rather well thought out film, we get a random road map to revisit all the original jokes in more extreme ways. On a scene-by-scene basis nothing made sense, and nothing is ever exploited at all. With little to no character development it made for a bland and boring experience.
The Story Was Non-Existent
I can see the ideas that the film was trying to convey, but there are so many themes and messages thrown at you that nothing is ever clear. At first I thought the film was going to continue with the coming of age route, which would have been entertaining. They had the group of friends from the previous movie all together and talking about growing up, while Teddy (Zac Efron) still had some trouble. This route would have been perfectly fine with me, but it ends there. Teddy could have fell down the spiraling “prank war” again before realizing how childish it is, and yet it doesn’t happen. The prank war could have been humorous by just popping into Mac’s house once in awhile to see him suffering, but instead they focused on it and the impending “switching sides” joke by Teddy didn’t hit home.
Teddy then freaks out and goes on an emotional roller coaster with no reasonable cause because he doesn’t develop at all. He randomly breaks down mid movie and we really have no idea what’s going on in his head. Teddy could have been the lead in this movie as he is the only character with any type of arc, but that isn’t the case. He wasn’t beat down enough due to bad pacing in the story, and they made him so blatantly stupid that you really disconnect with him.
Next we switch to the sorority which have their own coming of age issues, and then nothing develops either. The most disappointing part of the movie was the female group of friends because they were all great at acting, but the script never gave any of them character. At all. You never felt a need to like them and they were all simply just there. I actually felt bad for Chloë Grace Moretz (Shelby) because her character had a new personality every time she was on screen, and it didn’t make sense. At one point she is a soft spoken friendless college freshmen, the next scene she is talking like a gangster with 100’s of friends, and then by the end of the movie you had no idea how she even developed. Things Shelby did didn’t make sense with her introduced character.
In the first film they did a great job of developing the small group of friends and they all felt unique to their own. In this film it just felt like a sorority was there for no reason. Shelby and the small group of friends had no unique characteristics, and they were not funny because of it. They were basically just treading the same path as the first film without developing them, which made all their hijinks boring. I think if the film focused on a story elsewhere while making the sorority a side problem it would have worked, but instead they were trying their hardest to make this the central story…
The entire movie basically boils down to every character yelling “weed!” every other sentence. It seriously got so annoying mid movie that I told my fiancé that if they say weed one more time I’m leaving, and she agreed. I would say about 80 percent of the movie is either a weed joke, or them chasing down their stolen weed. While the original films had a funny joke of the boys making a business based on their own penises, this film thought it’d be funny to just chase around weed and make stoner jokes the entire time. One joke consisted of the character trying weed for the first time and coughing for a good 2 minutes…. So hilarious…. Some people might find that funny, but these movies focusing so heavily on weed as their central joke are really getting old.
Otherwise the filmed lacked any structure at all and seemed like too many people had input because nothing made sense as things jumped from one thing to the next. Spoilers as I explain this. One example is a major plan the female team has to destroy Mac and Kelly, which is to make them separate by hacking their phones to make it seem like they are mad at each other. Both Mac and Kelly start freaking out because they both think they “left” each other and are off somewhere, and yet they are both sitting in the same house…. So Mac decides “oh instead of wandering into a different part of the house, I’ll just go straight to Australia,” and Kelly somehow gets out of the house without walking by Mac standing right by the front door.
This is just an example of how poorly done things were. This could have happened if the writing was any good. We could have a situation where maybe they do walk by each other in a funny way and just don’t notice, (for example as they search, the other person walks out or ducks behind something, very typical visual humor) but no. Or maybe Mac does leave in a panic, then Kelly comes out to ask Teddy where Mac was and he goes “Oh he just left, he was pretty upset.” Instead the film just wanted a cheap easy joke and nothing more.
Another example is when Mac has the idea to infest the sorority house with bed bugs. This could have been an extremely epic sequence of events with them sneaking in, maybe getting infested themselves, and a continued joke throughout the film. Heck maybe the sorority was doing something funny and they walk in on it and get stuck, but nope. It’s a quick sequence of them literally just opening the front door, throwing in a few bags, and the house being tented for 3 days in one flash.
No explanation of where the girls and Teddy stayed for 3 days while the house was tented. (Teddy at this point was homeless…. I think?) No panic by the girls, tensions don’t rise, nothing. A totally good joke wasted. This is an example of a problem that continues to arise in the whole film. If they were not trying to squeeze in extreme jokes and replicate the first movie at every turn they would have been able to extend everything. They could have built up situations to make them funny and give things purpose, but they don’t. Everything is a quick one shot joke with references to the first movie.
The Film Constantly Tries To Defend Itself
One thing I absolutely hated about this film was the constant pause between major jokes simply so the film can tell you why it was funny. Neighbors 2 prides itself on being a feminist movie for some reason, so the political topic is shoved in your face constantly. At one point they basically made you feel bad about liking the first movie because, according to them, the ideas in it are so horrible and sexist. I get it, they wanted to make a political statement, whatever. To me I would have just let the female cast shine and do their thing without defending it because it could be funny if the political jargon wasn’t shoved in your face with it. They could have proven their point by simply making a powerful female driven comedy, but instead the film needs to constantly remind you of their mission because the writing is so weak.
The problem was that the film would carry on and make jokes that were basically the female version of the jokes in the first film. That part I’m fine with because that can be funny, but then you get explanations after every joke. There were points where the characters would straight up have discussions about how “if it were a male, it’d be funny” and the other characters would agree and then laugh. It wasn’t one or two jokes, it was a constant reminder that if you were not laughing…. It was simply because it was a female driven movie. How about no? It wasn’t funny because it was stupid. Basically if you didn’t laugh at their really lame jokes that were misplaced all throughout the film…. You are sexist. I don’t know if it was done on purpose or what, but they have these messages all throughout it and yet Teddy (Zac Efron) is a typical muscle man with no brain.
It wasn’t just the political jokes that were like this. The film also made connections to the previous film that made absolutely no sense and characters would literally go “but wait….” And the film would then straight up defend the lousy writing points. Then they would throw out some excuse as to why they did it. The film was literally trying to explain poor decisions by trying to justify itself constantly. Pete’s character doesn’t line up with his character in the past movie at all, so he and Teddy have several conversations trying to explain why. It basically boils down to “we just wanted to do it.”
I desperately wanted to walk out of this movie and I never want to do that, especially with how high prices are. Yet I stayed simply because I had my fiancé with me and I didn’t want to leave her alone. At the end of the movie I straight up told her “I almost walked out” and she goes “we should have.” She disliked it as much as I did and she found the feminism messages even more annoying than I did. The movie took a good purpose and ruined it by making fun of the message with terrible jokes. It just wasn’t funny, and people don’t walk into a comedy expecting a political argument to arise from it.
With that in mind I took notice of how many people actually did bolt out the door when the credits rolled. Nobody was smiling or laughing, nobody was talking about what they just saw, they all just wanted out as fast as possible. (About 10 or so people left before the movie ended.) I saw another movie just before this one and it was the total opposite. While watching the first Neighbors opening weekend I sat in a theater that constantly couldn’t stop laughing. In my theater for the 2nd one I heard a couple giggles here and there, but that was it. Mostly I heard people whispering “but wait, that doesn’t make sense.”
I wasn’t expecting it to be gold like the first film. Most comedy sequels are not great, but they are normally bearable, and that was my hope for this film. Instead what we got was a totally broken mess of ideas with no coherent storytelling to justify anything. Being truthful, the jokes work in the trailers simply because they are short sequences, and all the jokes you see (and the every scene Selena Gomez appears in) are in the trailers.
What really sucks is that there are times you can see the gold from the first film shine through. There is a better story to be told here, it’s just broken up and divided between 3 other ideas. If the writers room focused on just one idea and expanded upon their jokes instead of trying to hit everything on a road map it would be great. Things that were totally broken in this film could be fixed with better pacing and more detail. If they were not so dead set on redoing all the jokes from the first film in more extreme ways the jokes would have been better. Plus their overall message, that a female cast can lead this type of film, would have played out so much better and it wouldn’t keep blaming them for failed laughs.
As for the jokes, if they had better set up and better writing behind it they could have been gold. There is no build up to anything and jokes just fly out of left field. There are a few that make you laugh and that is why I think it all had potential, but everything comes together with poor editing. Instead of seeing a setup we see 2 to 3 minutes of extended scenes trying to justify the joke.
There is also a lot of times when the chemistry between actors get to shine. There is a specific scene when Seth Rogen and Zac Efron are together and it’s a good 5 minute scene that made the whole audience laugh. They were allowed to spend time together and build chemistry for their following sequence, which made it funny. This happens with a lot of the pairings and if they are just given that opportunity it shines through. There really is a good movie laying underneath this film, but what we got is so dumbed down and broken.
Neighbors 2 has a great moral premise, but it’s a broken mess that I hope they repair if they ever decide to carry forward with a third. I was, and am, a huge fan of the first film and I love the ideas that this film tried to introduce, but nothing worked. At all.