Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The whole gang is back in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (opening today), which means that you can expect more of the same. It's a follow-up to the hard-R-rated raunch-fest Neighbors, which grossed over 150-million back in 2014. The good news is that not only are stars Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Ike Barinholtz, Zac Efron and Dave Franco back for more shenanigans (as are several other bit actors from the first film), but the same creative team is behind this sequel: Writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, and director Nicholas Stoller. The bad news? This new film lacks the heart and purpose of the first film, and gets trapped by trying to stay within the same structural boundaries and premises of the original.
Call it "sequel-itis" if you want: A condition where a movie wants to bottle the same magic and success of its predecessor, only to come off as a pale imitation. Worst parents ever, Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen and Byrne) now have a little girl, and a new baby is on the way. They've just sold on their house - which in the last film sat right next to a thriving fraternity - and have bought a new dream home far away from college campuses. But their current house is in escrow, meaning that their new buyers have 30 days to change their minds on the purchase should, you know, anything happen that might make them change their minds about moving in. So what could possibly happen?
New college freshman and stereotypical millennial Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) is taken aback when attending her first Sorority meeting, finding out that sororities nation-wide are not allowed to throw house parties. And to go to typical sausage-stuffed frat parties? Puh-lease. Shelby moves in next to the Radners at the old frat house and looks to start her own sorority, one where they can drink and party in a classier, more civilized manner. She does this with the help of down-and-out former frat boy Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), who now meets on Mondays to play poker with his old college buddies and who feels inadequate since he is the only one that hasn't found post-college success or happiness (welcome to the real world, Teddy).
So of course, this sets off a battle royale between Mac and Kelly and their new neighbors, who would be a real reason to pull out of the house purchase. Let the hilarity ensue.
While there are still several laughs this time around, the whole thing feels pointless and unnecessary. Must every sequel repeat the plot of the first movie? Now that the first film established we like hanging out with these characters, couldn't we see them put in an entirely different situation altogether? With most comedies, if it is funny enough, you can forgive egregiously lame story-lines. The gross-out factor is raised this time around (I'm talking to you, scene where used tampons are thrown at a house) and much of it is hit- and-miss, no pun intended.
The worst offense of all is that Rose Byrne is horribly underused. She was a bright shining star of comedy in the first movie, and here
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