FILM REVIEW – NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING. With Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ike Barinholtz. Written by Andrew J. Cohen & Brendan O’Brien & Nicholas Stoller & Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg. Directed by Nicholas Stoller. Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use. 92 minutes.
Five writers, including director Nicholas Stoller and star Seth Rogen, are credited with crafting the screenplay for NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING. Perhaps “crafting” isn’t the right word. It plays more like they had a great time passing around the bong and somebody remained coherent enough to write down the wacky ideas they produced.
It’s some time after the events of “Neighbors.” Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen, Rose Byrne) are trying to sell their house. The fraternity next door seems to have vanished, although their nemesis from the first movie, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), still gets together with his “bros.” And some young women, led by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), have decided to start a sorority in–wait for it!–that very same house next door.
For the next hour-and-a-half, the Radners and the sisters of Kappa Nu go at each other, just like the Radners and the frat in the first film. There are a few mild laughs, but there’s also a baby playing with a vibrator (apparently that’s such comedy gold it’s a running gag); Kelly vomiting on Mac during sex, and Teddy being rubbed down with barbecue juices because he forgot his baby oil. Oh, right, Zac Efron takes off his shirt since he seems to be required to do so in every movie he’s in. Well, to quote the great Max Bialystok, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.
It’s lowest common denominator humor that only occasionally rises to the level of actual cleverness, as when Shelby tries to steal their phone and is startled that a landline means that it comes with a cord. For the most part it’s people of all ages – well, perhaps not the toddler – acting like idiots. It says something when a two-year-old is the most mature character in the film.
It’s pointless to talk about the performances. From the leads to cameos by Lisa Kudrow and Kelsey Grammer, no one here turns in anything like a performance that they will want shown at a life achievement award presentation (they should be so lucky). Occasionally, the humor crosses the line from being merely moronic and disgusting to downright offensive. Mac tries to tell a potential buyer that the house next door (with eight bedrooms) is actually owned by a Jewish family who have lots of children. His friends then pretend to be those neighbors, with the wife visibly pregnant. Mac says she has “a Jew in the oven.” The “joke” is supposed to be that Kelly hits him for his tasteless remark, but really, if they weren’t stoned at the time how did that ever get out of the writer’s room?
There will be those who will praise the film for it’s “female empowerment.” It rails against the sexist attitudes that Shelby and friends are up against and cheers their decision to steer their own course. Wonderful. They win the fight to be as self-absorbed and obnoxious as the boys. It’s not exactly “Norma Rae.”
“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is a terrible movie. And no doubt it will make a lot of money. You’ve been warned.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.