Two years ago, the original Neighbors surprised everyone by being not just a major hit but actually a more-than-solid comedy. The storyline of an escalating warfare between a young, suburban couple with a newborn child and their even younger, party-minded frat boy neighbours is fresh, zingy, relatable. Pairing a stoner dad ready to settle down with an ultra-alpha male on top of the college food chain plays off genuinely amusing clashes of personality. And whether it’s the parents rocking their BabyBjörn like a hipster accessory or the guys flaunting their Abercrombie abs like weapons of mass destruction, the movie scored extra points for its memorably cheeky visual cues.
Fast forward to the inevitable sequel. Baby Stella is now a toddler, mom Kelly (Byrne) and dad Mac (Rogen) have struck a good deal to sell their house pending a 30-day inspection period, except that’s exactly when a sorority led by the rebellious Shelby (Moretz) moves in next door, ready to party harder than the boys and scare off any faint-hearted potential buyer. At first the girls have the once legendary fraternity-president Teddy (Efron) on their side as a mentor. After some unlikely turns of events, however, Teddy decides to join forces with former enemies to take down his bikini-clad mentees.
Recycling most of its predecessor’s plot elements, the movie gives up any attempt to surprise outright and plays like any other raucous, raunchy comedy. Spliced with some vague, ill-considered ideas of feminism, it features characters of confused motivations lacking the crisp contour of their previous incarnations. The fact that there’s an overall crude quality to the cinematography and that the editing is often simply off doesn’t help matters. Basically what we’re left with is the same airbag gags and dildo jokes that worked the first time around, yielding significantly diminished returns with every repetition.
There are instances where a delightfully game Efron or the dependably funny Byrne rescues failing setups with a single expression or sheer brilliant timing, but that only serves to highlight what disservice director Stoller did himself by giving his actors so little to do. Cluttered, derivative and unaesthetic, Neighbors 2 feels hastily, reluctantly cobbled together and doesn’t earn nearly enough laughs to justify all the property damaged or beer wasted.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising | Directed by Nicholas Stoller (USA, 2016) with Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Chloë Grace Moretz, Zac Efron. Starts May 5