Comedy sequels are a dicey business. Stick too closely to the original film and you risk boring your audience; stray too far from what people liked about the first film and you risk making them angry. If you wait too long to produce a sequel your audience may have stopped caring, but if you bang out a Part 2 too quickly you’re in danger of coming off as crass or cynical. I’m sure we can all place several subpar comedy sequels into each of those four categories.
But every once in a while, Hollywood gets it right. Such is the case with Nick Stoller’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, which handily overcomes all of the aforementioned stumbling blocks and delivers a very funny sequel that presents several throwback jokes that fans will appreciate while also forging ahead with a few new themes, ideas, and gags that show some legitimate creativity on the part of the filmmakers. Yes, it’s basically a feature-length sitcom with a very foul mouth, but as far as vulgar, feature-length sitcoms go, Neighbors 2 earns some pretty high marks across the board.
As is often the case where quality comedy sequels are concerned, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising employs a bit of the established formula–a neurotic married couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) has to deal with the mania that arises when a bunch of rowdy college kids move in next door–but the filmmakers also remember to toss a few new ingredients into the mix; in the first film poor Marc and Kelly had to deal with a hard-partying fraternity, whereas this time it’s a bunch of sorority girls who are causing so much ruckus. But the differences here are more than cosmetic; Neighbors 2 actually provides a refreshing switch from most low-brow college-set comedies by not just allowing young women to be loud, raunchy, and irreverent, but also by tackling a few prickly issues through the use of clever farce.
In a nutshell, the sorority girls are sick of having to party in the sleazy bro-centric world of fraternities, which is why they’ve set out to create their own place to smoke weed, get laid, and basically act like college kids. The screenwriters don’t exactly bang us over the head with this timely and socially relevant outlook at campus gender politics, but it’s nice to see a vulgar comedy that makes sure that young women are the participants, and not simply the observers.
Don’t mistake Neighbors 2 for some sort of preachy collection of knee-jerk activism, though. Its heart is in the right place but its main focus is on broad, silly, frequently vulgar, and sometimes very slapstick comedy. And on that count it succeeds mightily. Rogen, Byrne and adversary turned ally Zac Efron strike up the same crazy chemistry that made the first Neighbors film such a winner, and fortunately they’re joined by several new co-stars who manage to steal a few scenes of their own. As the leader of the brand-new Kappa Nu sorority, Chloe Grace Moretz is as charming and unpredictably profane as ever, and the supporting cast of Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Dave Franco, Hannibal Burress provides several chuckles in very short order.
Several of the sorority house newcomers generate their own laughs: Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein acquit themselves quite well against some heavy comedy hitters, and one young actress (called Awkwafina) delivers the film’s biggest laugh. Even solo-scene players like Lisa Kudrow, Kyle Mooney, and Kelsey Grammer generate some quick laughs. Hell, Neighbors 2 even has a BABY who’s funny.
A few of the more elaborate set pieces come off more silly than “LOL” funny, but there’s also a bunch of scripted / improv banter that really hits the mark–and there’s a marijuana heist set-piece that’s simply hilarious. Rogen and Byrne, in particular, have grown into quite the complementary comedic duo in both Neighbors flicks, and it’s that pairing that will earn my ten bucks once again whenever the inevitable Neighbors 3 shows up at my local multiplex.
3.5 party-size burritos out of 5
Image: Universal Pictures