In my review of the original Neighbors, I commented that although I loved how the characters and themes were handled in the film, there were simply too many big comedic moments that fell flat. It was overly raunchy and didn’t deliver enough laughs as one would have expected. Having recently rewatched that film, I can admit that I was probably a little too harsh on it. I still certainly wish that it was funnier, but it’s got a great premise and is incredibly well-directed by Nicholas Stoller. He once again returns to direct Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, a film that’s admittedly a step down from the original, but still a notch above most modern comedies. It’s rare that a comedy sequel ends up being a success and while that label might be a little too generous for this film, it’s certainly not a failure.

Several years after the rivalry of the first film, Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) discovers that she is pregnant with her second child, so she and her husband Mac (Seth Rogen) decide to finally sell their home. After purchasing an idyllic new house, they discover that their old house is in escrow for thirty days, meaning the couple that purchased it can back out at any point over the next month. This disappointing news becomes horrible once they discover that a young sorority has moved in next door. The couple tries to reason with Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), the group’s leader, but they soon learn that the sole purpose of this sorority is to throw parties outside of the frats. Things begin to get wild next-door and it’s only heightened by the arrival of Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), who vows to help this new sorority out.

Neighbors worked as a film about two different groups of people who were afraid of growing older. Mac and Kelly were afraid of the commitment that being new parents would bring, so they chose to distract themselves from this responsibility by focusing on the war with Teddy. Teddy also didn’t want to grow older; about to graduate from college, he saw some of himself in the young couple, so his battle with them was a desperate attempt to hold onto his youth.

The main theme in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising doesn’t work quite as well, but it’s arguably more important. Shelby starts her own sorority to rebel against the sexism that is present in college Greek life. It’s pretty crazy to think that even today sororities can’t throw parties while fraternities can and the film ably skewers this lack of equality. Stoller and his cowriters also showcase the sexism that is inherent in frat parties, which often exists for the sole purpose of bringing in women for the brothers. It works as a progressive message and elevates the film above your typical comedy that features crude jokes about sex and drugs. The only downside is that this message doesn’t really affect Mac and Kelly at all. Whereas the first film showed parallels between the college kids and the parents, there isn’t much of a connection between the two in the sequel.

The humor here is sporadically successful, providing just enough laughs to satisfy moviegoers. A set piece taking place at a college football tailgate is easily one of the film’s highlights and Ike Barinholtz dressing up as a scary clown to casually blend in is easily the highlight of the sequence. Rogen and Byrne are still great together, with Byrne generating so many laughs based solely on her performance that it’s a wonder why more people don’t consider her one of the funniest screen comediennes of this generation. But just like the original film, the humor in this sequel sometimes goes too far, confusing raunchiness for genuine humor. A scene centered around vomit that opens the film is actually funny, but moments involving bloody tampons and a woman going into labor are not.

But even if some of the themes and the humor are shaky, it’s ultimately Stoller who brings everything together into a worthwhile experience. There are very few directors working today that are better at handling comedy than he is. Compared to other entries in this genre, the film is visually excellent and Stoller does a fantastic job editing together montages and extended comedic sequences. Even something as simple as Rogen’s character searching through different garbage bags feels fresh and exciting under his direction. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is the rare comedy sequel that’s actually worth checking out.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising receives 2.5/4

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