Movie Review: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

College comedy has positive messages about inclusion, but forgets to include actual comedy

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
With Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloë Grace Moretz, Dave Franco

Comedies set on a college campus are a generally pretty dismal collection of sophomoric jokes, and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, called Bad Neighbours 2 in some markets, does not disappoint in that department. But one plus is that most of the attempted jokes are at least not offensive.

The premise is a bit contrived, but in a weird way shines light on an actual issue. Some young women are unhappy with the long-standing rule in the US that sororities can't host events with alcohol (also called parties) while fraternities can. It is not a federal law, but a rule of the organization that oversees frats and sororities.

Three young women decide to fight the rule by starting their own hard-partying off-campus renegade sorority. They in part feel safer that way, as the frat parties depicted in the film are quite demeaning to women. Real-file evidence supports this as well, and some experts actually do claim that it would be much safer for women to host their own parties where they can be more in control of what happens and who is invited.

The film does not examine this in great depth, but women empowering themselves and being allowed to be who they want to be, rather than being forced to conform to demeaning stereotypes, is a theme.

The alleged humor in the film comes in when the noisy sorority comes into conflict with the neighbors who are trying to sell their house because they are now having a second baby. Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) have rushed into buying a new, bigger house. The people who bought their old house, however, were more careful and have 30 days to back out of the deal. So the Radners risk being stuck with two expensive houses and losing them both.

The new sorority, led by ad-hoc equal-rights activist Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), pops up next door and refuses to be quiet, even for a limited period of time until the real estate deal is final.

The couple and the new sorority go to war, as it were, with a series of hit-and-miss pranks that escalate out of control. Some of the setups are clever, but never really funny to the point where one would laugh. Some teens might be amused by a plot involving marijuana and a tailgate party at a big game.

A few jokes with phone texts are also a bit amusing.

Considering that the sorority is made up of college students, one really peculiar feature of the film is that the audience never actually sees the school. There is not one scene in a classroom and no mention of homework, particular teachers or any subjects.
This would have stood in the way of the flow of humor, but it would have been nice to see there was some awareness of actual classes.

This is a sequel, and the previous film saw much the same situation but with a fraternity as the bad neighbors. The now-older frat boys are back, and one of the plots with them involves a gay wedding. To the film's credit, there is almost no anti-LGBT humor. Indeed, everyone is surprisingly enthusiastic about the development.

There are pro-diversity messages as well. One plus-sized woman is refused entry to a frat party that only allows stereotypically attractive women. The rogue sorority accepts all women the way they are without judgment.

One minor plot even addresses racial bias in police responses by turning the situation around.

The homeowners do go to a college dean for help, but the dean points to the problem of political correctness on campus and says she can't help due to fear of negative publicity that she stood up against women who were empowering themselves.

And while this is all really great, it would have been much better for a comedy film is some of this was funny as well.

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