Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (dir. Nicholas Stoller)

Posted: June 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” attempts to be a politically correct and non-sexist raunchy comedy. While the attempt is commendable, it simply does not work in this form. The film is only sporadically funny at best, and the particular approach of the film undercuts the feminism.  A feminist raunchy comedy about women attempting to throw parties for women in a sorority probably would have worked better as a sequel to “Old School”, which the sorority versus a stuffy dean, than as a sequel to “Neighbors”, where the gripes of the girls’ opponents are not related to sexism and are pretty legitimate.

 

Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are about to sell their house, but they have to make sure no problems happen in the final 30 days in which the house is in escrow. I chuckled a bit at the joke that neither Mac not Kelly knew what escrow was. Kelly is pregnant, and the couple already has a toddler, who keeps taking Kelly’s vibrator as a toy. Apparently, Mac and Kelly are too dumb to put the vibrator in a locked drawer, a simple solution that made this running gag unfunny due to the fact that the couple are bad enough parents to not think of this.  The problem arises when a sorority moves in next door and throws loud parties because, well, what new buyer wants to own a home next to a party house?

 

The sorority is started by Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), a one dimensional character who is spoiled by her father and upset that she didn’t have friends in high school because her parents kept her sheltered. When we meet her father (Kelsey Grammar), this backstory makes no sense, as he seems like the type that would cave to his daughter’s demands, but whatever.  She starts the sorority with one dimension fat girl stereotype Nora (Beanie Feldstein) and lacking any personality girl Beth (a wasted Kiersey Clemmons, who was so great in last year’s “Dope”).  After finding out what sororities are not allowed to throw parties (does that violate freedom of assembly if the college is public?), and not wanting to go to frat parties where sexist objectification is the norm and the threat of rape prevalent (legitimate concerns), they decide to start an off campus sorority where they can have dress up parties, cry to sad movies, and just have fun girl time. Basically, adult female sleepovers.  The motive and the goals are all fine, but they refuse to compromise on keeping the noise down for 30 days until Mac and Kelly can get out of escrow. The girls’ inability to compromise and youthful selfishness makes them hard to like, and the film keeps the girls so one dimensional that it undercuts any feminist message related to them as we inevitable side with the older, somewhat smarter, somewhat more well-developed older couple characters.

 

Oh, and we also get Zac Efron as Teddy, a dumb jock loser who lost his job and is losing his apartment and at first helps the girls set up their sorority. When the girls dump him when he tries to be the voice of reason (also not helping us like the girls) he turns to Mac and Kelly’s side in attempting to force the girls out of the house.

 

I disliked the first “Neighbors” and thought it was a wasted opportunity for a good concept. This sequel is slightly better in that I chuckled a handful of times more than when I watched the first one, but it spends so much time trying badly to be feminist that the humor takes a back seat anyway. While I appreciate the message of women wanting to have fun without being made to twerk and have wet t-shirt contests for the amusement of dumb guys, and small attacks on MRAs, as well as acknowledgment that while women may like a toned male physique, few of them enjoying seeing a man’s genitals, the feminist message is undercut by having the girl characters be one dimensional, unempathetic to anyone but themselves, spoiled, and overall kind of shitty. The behavior they engage in (breaking and entering, theft, vandalism, drug dealing) are worse than the couple’s (calling the cops, shutting off the power, calling their parents), so the film gives us a lopsided portrayal of this fight in perhaps the wrong direction.

 

One can image a sequel to “Old School” in which a sexist college dean refuses to let a sorority through parties, and the “Old School” team helps them set one up to fight administrative patriarchy, and the guys help the girls combat sexist men as allies. That could work. As it stands, this film portrays a school administration too afraid to combat the girls for fear of looking sexist in public.  This seems like a fantasy only an MRA could think up, and undercuts the film’s bent yet again.

 

Perhaps none of the identity politics (the film also deals with ageism and is heavily tilted in favor of the older versus the younger) would matter if the film were funnier, but the film provides maybe one good laugh (about a pregnant Jewish woman) and a few chuckles here and there.  Many jokes fall flat, and the editing early in the film cuts so fast that it undercuts the humor of jokes which might have had a chance to land. This is simply a mediocre comedy with a misguided premise that could have been fixed, if only it hadn’t been shoehorned into being a “Neighbors” sequel. C-

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