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‘Neighbors 2’ Joins The Ranks Of Great Comedy Sequels (Movie Review)

Neighbors-2-soroity-risingGreat comedy sequels or even good comedy sequels are rare to come by. So many risks are taken when it comes to both recapturing a certain magic and taking a premise to a new level. 2014’s Neighbors is not exactly a film that lends itself to a sequel, but it was a hit and the powers that be asked for it. Fortunately, director Nicholas Stoller, the writers and star/producer Seth Rogen have put together Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, a comedy sequel that outdoes the original. It’s leaner, funnier and incredibly clever in tackling relevant social issues.

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For the record, I found the original Neighbors to be something of a surprise. I expected to laugh, as I generally enjoy the comedy output of Rogen and his producer/writing partner Evan Goldberg, but I was happy to find that it was about something. The film took the idea of a rivalry and injected the themes of responsibility and becoming an adult. In the midst of comedic chaos, we had a couple dealing what it means to become parents and move away from a more free-spirited lifestyle. It also featured Zac Efron shedding his pretty boy image and didn’t simply place Rose Byrne on the sidelines as a typical movie wife.

Neighbors 2 returns all of those elements and adds on social justice for women. The film attacks the double-standards generally seen in comedies when it comes to what has been determined okay for dudes to laugh at while women sit by and maybe enjoy some but not all. It mocks the idea of exploitation, namely by having an extended sequence involving shirtless Efron and Rogen (with painted on abs). All of this and we still get an exceedingly funny feature that manages to trim the fat some may have found in the first film.

We have three stories here. One involves Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) dealing with an upcoming second child and what they need to do to sell their current home, before moving into a new one. The second involves three female college freshman (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein) starting their own sorority in an attempt to get away from the sexist masculinity that plagues college life/frat parties. Finally, Efron’s Teddy is in search of a purpose in life and realizes how poor his actions towards women were, during college, leading him into mentoring the new sorority. These three forces clash in an epic battle of two neighboring houses.

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While I have been happy to dig into what this movie is thematically about and why that makes this an ambitious improvement over the first film, it is still a comedy from Rogen and Goldberg in the vein of their other films. If their sense of humor does not work for you, there may not be much here to sway you in terms of the jokes and comedic set pieces that go down. It may play fair in giving all members of the cast a chance to really goof around, rather than letting the boys have all the fun, but the comedy is still subjective. That in mind, I can completely respect a comedy that appears to be coming from the minds of people who can make real life experiences into a cinematic treat.

The direction is fast-paced and erratic, which may cause some to overlook the strong performances on display, but I did find this to be a well-made film as far as seeing filmmakers and actors collaborate quite successfully. I mentioned comedic set pieces and you really do get some key scenes that build a level of tension that is released thanks to laughs rather than scares. It works well and comes from director Stoller doing more than just letting the camera linger while the actors riff with each other.

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Rogen, in particular, deserves a lot of credit. Some are of the mind that he does the same thing over and over (which is not completely true), but to his credit here, he happily allows many of the other cast members to have the very best moments. Efron and Bryne continue to be in top comedic form, mixing both physical and dialogue-based humor well. Moretz does a fine job of successfully leading her band of misfits. Then you have fine support from Ike Barinholtz and a bunch of other familiar faces, including what just may be my favorite comedic cameo of the summer in a key scene full of humor and pathos.

Given how widely known the airbag gag was in the first film, I am honestly staying away from highlighting any key jokes, but suffice it to say, Neighbors 2 is a true success. It continues to take a look at adult life and put it within the framework of a broad comedy. That the film is able to attach even more relevant issues, while improving on the first, only provides stronger footing, as it stands tall with the few other comedy sequels that actually worked. Not bad at all for a sequel that initially stood on shaky ground. I can only hope this momentum continues if there is really a need to build this silly series into a trilogy.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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