Review by James McDonald
After a sorority moves in next door, which is even more debaucherous than the fraternity before it, Mac and Kelly have to ask for help from their former enemy, Teddy.
Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s back in Dublin, Ireland, I couldn’t watch enough movies about American high schools and colleges. It all seemed so much more exciting compared to boring old Irish secondary school, complete with uniforms, back home. Granted, as I got older and began making films of my own, I realized that so many, if not most of the college-themed movies I grew up loving, were overly exaggerated. Still, that didn’t matter because they were funny. Films such as “Porky’s,” “Revenge of the Nerds,” anything directed by John Hughes, and my personal favorite, “Up the Creek,” which starred Tim Matheson and Dan Monahan. As I left the press screening of “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” my friend Joseph asked me what I thought. Only one word came to mind…terrible. Although Joseph liked it, I couldn’t help but think I was turning into a grumpy old man. But then I slapped myself in the face really hard and realized that it wasn’t me, it was indeed, the movie.
You see while “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” has all the ingredients necessary to make a truly funny film, including a top-notch cast, the rest of the movie gradually begins to fall apart. We’ve seen it all before. The youngsters waging war with the “old people,” the old people waging war with the youngsters, everyone competing with each other, trying to one-up the other side and just when they think they have, the opposition comes back bigger and badder. It gets inordinately repetitive and you can see exactly what is going to happen, hours before it transpires. And I lay that blame with the writers, all five of them, including Seth Rogen. Maybe if they had reduced the amount of screenwriters contributing to the story, it wouldn’t feel like a smorgasbord of disparate and contrasting ideas that tend to conflict with each other instead of harmonizing.
As the film begins, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) have decided to sell their home and move away from the city. When a young family appears interested in the house, it is put into escrow for thirty days, allowing the prospective buyers enough time to back out, should they feel the need to do so, for whatever reason. Everything seems fine until one day, Mac and Kelly discover that a new hard-partying sorority, Kappa Nu, headed by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein), have moved in next door. Frightened that they will scare the buyers away, they approach the girls first, with good intentions, asking them if they could keep everything quiet, for just one month at which point they will be gone but the girls refuse. And so the stage is set, the parents against the kids and the only rules are, there are no rules.
Along the way, Mac and Kelly’s old nemesis from the first film, Teddy (Zac Efron), teams up with the girls, just to get back at them. He gives them tips and pointers on how to throw the best parties and how to raise money for their sorority but once they get on their feet, they quickly tire of him and kick him out, at which point he teams up with Mac and Kelly, vowing revenge against the sisterhood that abandoned him.
The whole point of a film is to make it feel somewhat believable, even sci-fi movies and horror flicks, some of which can be very outlandish and stretch realism to ridiculous lengths, have to create an authentic storyline and atmosphere in order for the audience to connect with the characters and events onscreen. With “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” it never felt like I was watching a movie, it felt more like an extended episode of “Jackass,” whereupon I observed a group of people trying to outdo each other with the most ludicrous and nonsensical scenarios imaginable. Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, and Chloë Grace Moretz are all actors I admire and have enjoyed in other movies, I just hope that the dean expels everybody involved with this project so there’s no possibility of a third outing.