Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Stars: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Dave Franco, Selena Gomez, Kiersey Clemons, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Lisa Kudrow, Abbi Jacobson, Hannibal Buress, Kelsey Grammer, Beanie Feldstein.
It seems that sequels are almost obligatory now whenever a comedy manages to gross over $200 million, but most of them fall short of the standards established by the original. Thus recently the studios have inflicted upon long suffering audiences such dire turkeys as Zoolander 2, Anchorman 2, Ride Along 2, Horrible Bosses 2, Grown Ups 2, and the list goes on. And now comes another dumb and unnecessary sequel to a comedy film. Bad Neighbours 2, subtitled Sorority Rising in the US, is another lazy gross out raunchy comedy that really adds little to the 2014 original.
The film is set a couple of years after the events of the original. Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) Radner are expecting their second child and are in the process of selling their house and moving to the suburbs. For thirty days their house will be in escrow, which means that the new buyers can inspect the property at anytime and pull out of the deal before closing date. Everything seems to be going smoothly until the former party house next door, which has been vacant and in a state of disrepair for some time, is occupied by a group of female students wanting to set up their own sorority.
According to the rules of the campus, sororities are not allowed to hold parties, unlike the fraternities. But Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) feels that this restriction is wrong. Disappointed at the rampant sexist attitudes on campus after attending her first frat party Shelby she enlists the help of a few like minded females to establish their own sorority, Kappa Nu, where they can throw their own parties and experience a sort of freedom. When they move into the house next door, Mac and Kelly urge them to try and not disturb the peace, at least until after the escrow period.
When Shelby and the girls refuse, their hard partying proves to be even more disturbing than that of the fraternity before them, and eventually all out war erupts between the neighbours. Mac and Kelly initially resort to some dirty tactics to try and drive them out. In desperation they turn to their former nemesis Teddy (Zac Efron) for help. Teddy himself is lonely and seems to have lost his direction in life, and helping Mac and Kelly gives him a sense of purpose.
Bad Neighbours 2 attempts to shoehorn in some faux pro-feminsist messages, but it also deals with issues of parental responsibility as both Mac and Kelly, who are not the world’s most attentive parents, don’t want to accept that their young daughter will eventually grow up and that they may lose that connection they have with her. The film is full of gross out humour, but it also lazily rehashes many of the jokes from the original, including the use of air bags. But it is the politically incorrect humour that scores the biggest laughs from the audience.
The girls in the sorority become something of a collection of cliches and stereotypes – there is the obligatory fat girl, the Chinese girl, etc – but we don’t get much of a sense of their personalities. And the character of Shelby herself is a little hard to pin down as she changes too often from sweet and likeable to downright mean and unpleasant. Moretz has a strong screen presence that has been put to good use in films like Kick-Ass, but here she struggles to get a grasp on her character who alternates between sweet natured and trash talking bad girl.
Rogen and Byrne again have a good easy going chemistry that elevates the material. Rogen in again essentially playing himself and is on autopilot as the stoner Mac, but Byrne brings some depth and a touch of class to her performance. Efron has shown himself to be a capable actor in edgier films like the noir-like The Paperboy and Me And Orson Welles, but lately he seems to be squandering his talents on substandard raunchy comedies. He also has a nice style of self-deprecating humour and is able to send up his own screen image with the right material, and he also manages to bring a hint of vulnerability to his performance. But he seems to be making some lazy choices of late and in films like this and Dirty Grandpa and the forthcoming Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates he seems to be playing the same sort of shallow, dumb jock, arrested development manchild type. And he needs little excuse to get his shirt off and flex his impressive abs.
Returning director Nicholas Stoller is a veteran of this kind of thing with films like Forgetting Sarah Marshall to his credit, and he keeps things moving along at a fair pace. Bad Neighbours 2 merely repeats the formula from the first film, inverting the narrative structure slightly but adding little that is new. The film has been written by a team of writers, including Rogen himself, which accounts for the disjointed flow of the material and the lack of cohesion throughout. The plot is fairly thin and merely repeats many ideas from the first film.
Those who enjoyed the original will still find this lazy and uninspired sequel tolerable and it passes the time easily enough.