Neighbors is a hilarious film that holds up incredibly well on repeat viewings, and yet director Nicholas Stoller has created a comedy sequel that’s just as funny as the original and even smarter to boot. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising retreads a lot of the same ground from the original in that it’s still the story of a Greek house making life a living hell for Mac (Seth Rogen) and his wife Kelly (Rose Byrne), but Neighbors 2 goes deeper by delving into gender issues and sexism. It’s a sequel that has all of the laughs of the first film with the added depth of a social issue picture.
Mac and Kelly have recently bought a new house, and they’re in escrow on their old home. They need thirty days to make sure the new buyers aren’t scared off, and that plan becomes jeopardized when college students Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein), who are fed up with the traditional Greek system, decide to make their own sorority. This leads to a sense of sisterhood and empowerment for the three young women, and a source of misery for Mac and Kelly. Their troubles are compounded when the three co-eds bring in Teddy (Zac Efron) as their mentor.
The problem with a lot of comedy sequels is that they lose the element of surprise and just retread old ground. In some ways, Neighbors 2 feels like it’s using leftover jokes from the first movie and employing pranks and shenanigans that wouldn’t have worked under the previous circumstances, but now they do with a bit of slight tweaking. And yet when the jokes are as on point and painfully funny as they are here, it’s tough to complain about feeling like this is more of the same.
But where Neighbors 2 really shines is how it takes a smart approach to gender dynamics. The film educates its audience that sororities aren’t allowed to throw parties in the Greek system, and so women are put at a disadvantage for socializing because they have to party on fraternity terms. Even though we’re not against Mac and Kelly, the film invests a lot to making us sympathize with Shelby, Beth, Nora, and their fellow sisters. They’re not “bad” girls and they’re not even particularly selfish, although we can also agree with Mac and Kelly that waiting thirty days to party isn’t the end of the world. We sympathize with both sides, and that makes us able to laugh with them when they get the upper hand.
Neighbors 2 goes to some surprisingly mature places for a movie that kicks off with a vomit joke, and it’s also unafraid to have weird tangents like Mac, Kelly, and Teddy arguing over the spelling of “sorority” (a word I would probably misspell if it weren’t in the title of this movie). It’s difficult to say it “improves” on the original because the original was so good, but it’s definitely one of the best comedy sequels ever made.