Film Review: Neighbors 2 is more of the same with slightly diminishing returns

Neighbors 2a


Let’s be honest: even though I enjoyed Neighbors and found it to be a worthwhile Seth Rogen/Zac Efron vehicle, I don’t think I walked out of the theatre thinking, “Man, I hope they make a second one.” That wasn’t even close to being in my mind. I might’ve thought, “Man, I can’t wait for the next Seth Rogen flick…” but I like the guy and his films are generally quite funny to me. Still, what we have here is a typical cash-in sequel to a successful comedy from 2014 with pretty much everyone returning (albeit some guys from the first one appearing in much smaller roles in this one). So is it any good?

It’s decent. While this wasn’t a smash hit or a runaway laugh riot for me, it did its job and provided some humour in small doses. The plot is pretty basic here. When Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) decide to finally sell their house so they can move with their infant daughter, a trio of girls (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein) held down by the sexist frat/sorority system decide to form their own sorority next door and thus the problems start up. Because the house is not quite sold yet, our heroes panic that the buyers will see the sorority next door and back out of the deal. The war has begun again.

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There’s a pretty talented line-up in this film – we’ve got Seth Rogen, who is obviously charming and funny like always but Rose Byrne also gets a lot of the film’s funniest moments. The way in which she blurts out “big black c*ck” at the beginning of the film (trust me, it’s funnier in context) had me rolling in laughter. They also have a cute chemistry together and I could totally see them as a couple in real life. The criminally underrated Ike Barinholtz is back along with Carla Gallo and they both get some more funny moments again although Ike probably holds more weight there. In fact, they have chemistry as well and act as a sort of funhouse version of our two leads. Zac Efron gets a lot of pathos to play with in this film and he does a good job with it. This is a guy who can do comedy and drama quite well and I am so glad he’s escaped the Disney fare that he used to do. Also, expect some fun cameos from Billy “Billy on the Street” Eichner, SNL‘s Kyle Mooney and Hannibal Burress along with some unnecessary ones from Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Selena Gomez and a really bored-looking Lisa Kudrow. There are some negative aspects here as well with some of the main cast. The ‘villains’ (the sorority) are really dull. I’ve said before that Chloe is a talented actress but she’s been involved with some weaker films before (the abhorrent The 5th Wave comes to mind) and while she has been quite good before I don’t feel like she is able to rise above weak material when she is presented with it. The other two girls, Clemons and Feldstein, are paper-thin characters and Feldstein in particular is passionately unfunny like a 3rd-rate Rebel Wilson.

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There are a good amount of funny scenes like an extended one in which Efron dances to distract the girls while Rogen and his pals steal their weed but the buildup is better than the pay-off, which is Efron’s ball drooping out of his shorts. One of the main things hurting the film is that it feels like it’s playing up an agenda too hard. I have no problem with films tackling subjects like sexism or anything but the execution of it in this film always felt like they were pushing the issue in a film that didn’t really earn it. The movie is a goofy comedy and it can sometimes work when you cross that idea with a difficult subject matter but the writing is not strong enough for it to really work here and most of the time I was just rolling my eyes. It almost felt like they were trying way too hard for it to be a politically correct film in this entirely-too-P.C. day and age.

I don’t have a whole lot else to say about the film. It does what it sets out to accomplish even if some of the characters are lacking and the message is a bit overbearing. You could find a worse thing to do with your 90 minutes of free time.

***

 

Rating System:

* (Brutal; the worst rating)

** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)

*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)

**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)

***** (Flawless; a true achievement)