Comedy sequels are a mixed bag. For every Home Alone 2 there’s a Hangover 2. One took the same premise, put it a new location, and made it funny. And the other was the equivalent of flossing with barbed wire.
Neighbors 2 is the completely unnecessary follow up to the wildly funny Neighbors, which was my favorite comedy of 2014. I had high expectations, to say the least.
This time around, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are trying to sell their house they so viciously fought to defend in the first movie. Teddy (Zac Efron) is still working at Abercrombie and Fitch, watching his much smarter friends lead more successful lives and wishing he could attain his old college glory days. In a misguided attempt at revenge, he agrees to mentor three female college freshman (led by Chloe Grace-Moretz) as they attempt to start a sorority in the same house Teddy once partied in.
Literally, it’s the same plot. Except this time it’s girls instead of guys. Didn’t think they could mine the same premise for any more humor? Boy, are you wrong. The jokes come hard and fast right out of the gate, from Mac’s daughter constantly finding Kelly’s vibrator, to Teddy’s insistence that there is no ‘I’ in sorority. (“There’s two I’s,” replies Mac.)
The twist comes a la Terminator 2 when Teddy realizes what sort of monster he created, and joins forces with Mac and Kelly to end the sorority.
God, it’s funny. I laughed very hard. Minor characters to main characters land absolutely gut busting one-liners. (“Sometimes you gotta suck a dick to find out you don’t like sucking dick.”) There’s no breaks, it’s almost constant jokes. And not like Anchorman 2 where they just yelled at everyone to improvise and then made a clip show of a movie. There’s visual humor (Zac Efron dressed as future president Hillary Clinton), pun based humor (Boise Bros & Idahoe’s party), and of course physical humor (the airbags make a comeback.)
But what made Neighbors really great was its insistence on showing some real sides of marriage and friendship. Comedy is a surprisingly great way to convey real emotion. Neighbors 2 doesn’t disappoint. Teddy is a sad character, he has no real life skills, his best friend is getting married, and he doesn’t feel valued anymore. Mac and Kelly wrestle with the fact that maybe they’re not great parents, and they’re scared of their daughter not being friends with them when she gets older. Several times during the movie I found myself looking inward and finding things in common with these characters.
But there is bad portion of this movie. And it’s sadly the whole reason the movie exists. The sorority is woefully underdeveloped. Beyond their desire to have non-rapey parties (because sorority’s legally can’t hold parties in their houses, only frats can) there’s not much to them. They don’t get much screen time. They don’t have a war with the neighbors as intense as the first film. They had a chance to delve deep into the female college experience but the film only dips its toes in the water. It’s like they got as far as, “Let’s make one of them kind of like a Rebel Wilson character,” and left it at that. Then it’s all wrapped up in a half-assed feel good ending. Thankfully, Mac, Kelly, and Teddy are such compelling characters that spending time with them doesn’t feel like a waste.
If it had come out first, Neighbors 2 would be an original, standout comedy. But it still stands in the shadow of its predecessor. It mimics the greatness of Neighbors but loses it’s overall way. If anything, it just solidifies the comedic prowess of Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, and Zac Efron. Go see it, enjoy some laughs, and hope they don’t try to make a Neighbors 3.
And remember, there’s no legal right to party.
3 out of 4 stars.