Monday, May 23, 2016

NEIGHBORS 2: A Funny Enough Follow-Up But An Inessential Sequel

Now playing at a multiplex near you:

(Dir. Nicholas Stoller, 2016)

“Let’s do what parents do best, stop young people from having fun!” Seth Rogen enthusiastically implores in this sequel to the 2014 hit comedy NEIGHBORS, in which Rogen and wife, Rose Byrne, now have to contend with the wild shenanigans of a sorority next door.

It’s one of those ‘why does the same thing keep happening to us?’ scenarios which calls attention to the notion that this sequel really isn’t necessary, but the first one made almost $300 million worldwide so you just know that it was incredibly inevitable nonetheless.

Chloë Grace Moretz plays Shelby, a rebellious freshwoman at the fictional Braxton University who, when she finds out that only fraternities can throw parties decides to start her own sorority – Kappa Kappa Nu – with her new friends Beth (Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein).

But, of course, their choice for their sorority’s headquarters is the same house that was run by Zac Efron and co. for their fraternity Delta Psi Beta in the first film. Efron, who’s now a directionless post-nongraduate with a police record from the events of the original, becomes a mentor to Shelby and the girls of Nu, showing them how to raise enough money to stay afloat, host killer parties, and piss off their neighbors.

That would be Rogen and Byrne, reprising their roles as Mac and Kelly Radner, who are trying to sell their house as they have a second baby on the way. Mac and Kelly’s house is in escrow for 30 days so the new buyers (Sam Richardson and Abbi Jacobson) could potentially withdraw their offer if they happen to stop by and find out about the wild partying next door.

Mac and Kelly try to make a deal with Shelby to keep the noise down for the next month but, yep, it doesn’t go well, especially with Teddy throwing shade on the Radners, and suddenly “it’s on!” Shelby declares. “Nothing’s on!” Kelly protests to no avail.

Things heat up when Teddy gets voted out of the house by the girls, and he joins forces with Mac and Kelly to shut down the sorority. With the help of the desperate couple’s best friends (Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo), Mac, Kelly, and Teddy plot to steal the sorority’s weed stash at a tailgate event so that the girls won’t have rent money.

This is arguably the film’s most hilarious highlight as it involves a chaotic chase through crazy crowds of college kids that made the audience at my screening as noisy as the people on screen.

NIEGHBORS 2 keeps a steady stream of laughs going through its gross-out pranks –such as used tampons being pelted against windows, vomiting, and a sight gag involving Efron’s balls –the relatability of its regular folks’ dialogue (Rogen and Byrne’s exchanges as a married couple who are on the same page are still endearing), and its continuous goofiness which even makes a winner out of a reprisal of the airbag joke from the first film.

So many laughs in fact that I can overlook the crudeness of the filmmaking, which isn’t very visually stylish - cinematographer Brandon Trost, whose shot several of Rogen’s pictures, has done way better before - or particularly well edited. But who’s going to go see this film for art reasons? Folks want lots of laughs from a film like this and it definitely delivers.

And they've certainly assembled a great supporting cast of laugh getters including the returning Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (forever Mc Lovin), Jerod Carmichael, and Hannibal Buress who are joined by a cluster of welcome cameos by the likes of Lisa Kudrow, Kelsey Grammer, and SNL's Kyle Mooney.

Rogen and crew, which includes longtime writing partner Evan Goldberg, Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O'Brien, and director Nicholas Stoller (all returning collaborators from the original), may have not pulled off an essential sequel by any means, but they’ve fashioned what I consider a funny enough follow-up. So it’s true that sloppy seconds can still be worthwhile, but here’s hoping that these guys take a hard pass on thirds.

More later...

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