The Radners’s new “Neighbors” teach us a side-splitting lesson.
By Dede Ogbueze, Staff Writer
“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne and Chloë Grace Moretz, combines some big laughs with a hackneyed plot and a passable script, a formula that ultimately saves the film from itself. If not for Andrew J. Cohen and company’s writing, this film would be a hard “pass.” It’s difficult to imagine anyone with high expectations for this film, but a few surprises along the way keep it interesting.
Rogen and Byrne return as Mac and Kelly Radner, a clueless couple that live next door to a frat house in suburban Georgia who are in way over their heads. Despite their mostly-uninteresting union, there are enough meltdowns and mishaps to keep you laughing. The Radners juggle dealing with the newly-established Kappa Nu sorority, adventures in the real estate market and raising their toddler. Byrne and Rogen provide less of the film’s comedic substance, and the new faces and supporting cast carry much of the burden instead.
The way the film manages to dismantle traditional Hollywood tropes is rather impressive and refreshing. The on-screen dynamic between the leading ladies—Moretz, Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein—and the men around them suggests input from women in the writer’s room, but none appear in the credits.
Much of the movie’s comic relief comes through the overuse of “sexist” as a description for many people and things. Still, the movie gracefully sidesteps the overbearing male savior audiences are forced to endure in many Hollywood productions.
The Kappa Nu sisters form their sorority in refusal of taking commands from men, and the film’s writers are on their side. The male cast serves as a springboard for the women to enact their own agendas—Efron assists the fresh-faced Kappa Nu sisters in their endeavors instead of taking charge outright. Cohen presents a conflict of tradition versus progress, not boys against girls.
The tight 92-minute running time is a double-edged sword; there is scant exposition before an almost-immediate plunge into the core of the film. Since Lena Dunham, LL Cool J and Cameron Dallas’s scenes were cut in post-production, it seems that editors sought to reduce the overambitious-sequel bloat that bogs down many sequels.
“Neighbors 2” is funny enough to be let off the hook for its flat plot, but not enough to warrant the price of admission. Wait to rent or stream this film for a fun night in.