Some may be tired of Seth Rogen’s schtick, not me. However, I will admit that even though he may have a direct line to my funny bone, not everything he’s in is gold. While it is nice to see him stretch his acting chops once in awhile — Steve Jobs, 50/50, even Funny People — most of us are more than willing to sit through his latest raunch fest. When the first Neighbors was released, everyone was worried about his pairing up with High School Musical alum Zac Efron. What we got was a hilarious rivalry gone wild. And $270 million worldwide later, we’re stuck with one of the more forced comedy sequels in awhile.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising may not live up to Rogen’s most hard up fans. Director Nicholas Stoller brings none of the heart the first one surprisingly had, making up for it with as many bodily functions as possible. And while a bag of dicks joke can be amusing, there are scenes that either don’t live up to their potential or get dragged out until they stop being funny.
The Radners, Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), are trying to sell their house. Finally in escrow, wouldn’t you know it, but a sorority has just moved in next door. College coeds Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie “Sister of Jonah Hill” Feldstein), are baffled that sororities (or is that sororititties) are not allowed to have parties, only fraternities. So they decide to rent the former Delta Psi Beta and create their own sorority: Kappa Nu.
The girls get a helping hand from Teddy Sanders (Efron) who’s having an existential crisis after brothers Pete (Dave Franco) gets engaged and Teddy is asked to move out. With nowhere to go, he takes Kappa Nu under his wing and moves in with the sisters. Now, Mac and Kelly are facing an even bigger challenge as they have to keep their potential buyers from finding out they’re about to move in next door to an even worse situation than the first time around.
I had high hopes for the film considering the original cast was returning, along with director Stoller. Stoller has managed to deliver two stellar comedies that couldn’t be more different from each other — Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Muppets — but none of the charm can be found here. While there are plenty of laughs — mostly of the guilty kind, just wait till you hear Rogen’s Jewish pregnancy quip, oy vey! — the film feels way too thin to exist. And judging by the turnout at the press screening, there will never be a Neighbors 3.
Not that we should be surprised by the law of diminishing returns, right? The first film ended on a nice enough note that we saw everyone winding up exactly where they should be. Thankfully, this one ends on an even more concrete note, tying up loose ends. Unfortunately, that means we spend the rest of the scant runtime with too much sisterhood — which would be fine if we cared for any of these girls for a second — and not enough parenthood. Rogen, Byrne, and Efron feel shoehorned into their own movie. Meanwhile, Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo — as the Radners’ best friends Jimmy and Paula — are overused.
Only Efron seems to love being back as the bad boy Teddy. Endlessly smug with charm to spare, if there is a third movie, we need to leave the Radners alone and give Teddy his own movie. If this is the best they could come up with for a direct sequel, I won’t be surprised if the wishful-thinking franchise finds its way to the direct-to-video arena where Universal is well known for churning out as many sequels as they can. Sorority Rising is the sequel no one asked for and no one put any real thought into. Those who already want to see it will enjoy it enough, but as for the theatrical Neighbors misadventures, this first sequel will undoubtedly be the last.