Seth Rogen has produced and written movies I have really enjoyed, so it is a shame that recently his projects have been so lackluster. I never saw the first “Neighbors,” but I heard mostly positive things, so perhaps things just didn’t go well in the process of making “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.”
Kelly (Rose Byrne) and Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) are trying to sell their house – the same house that once neighbored the fraternity Delta Psi Beta. Their house is put on escrow, giving them a 30 day period not to spook the potential buyers.
Meanwhile, a group of freshman girls pledging a sorority learn that sororities are unable to throw parties, and that the only parties available to them are fraternities’ sexist keggers. Mentored by Teddy (Zac Efron), Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) rallies enough girls to buy the house next to the Radner’s and start Kappa Nu, their own sorority which can party on their own terms. A prank war ensues between Kappa Nu and the Radners to make the other leave.
The humor in “Neighbors 2” is weak and uninventive. From what I can tell, most of the jokes are recycled from the previous movie. The film doesn’t feel like a blatant cash grab or a failed attempt to continue a franchise, but it certainly isn’t good either.
These jokes never actually make an interesting statement about the current state of college culture, which would be fine if the film wasn’t trying to be smart in its evaluation of college sorority and fraternity culture. This film is trying to make smart, feminist comments, but it doesn’t work. There is also a completely tone deaf joke about police brutality halfway through the film that was both unnecessary and offensive.
What really drags down the film are the lackluster characters. While Byrne, Rogen and Efron give solid performances and their characters are enjoyable to watch, nobody else in the film is interesting.
Moretz once again gives a profoundly average performance in a character that feels completely one-dimensional. Kiersey Clemmons, who plays Beth, is an upcoming talent who has shown her tremendous acting and comedic ability in past projects such as “Dope” and “Transparent.” In this movie she falls flat, not because of her acting, but because of a lack of character development in general. Nora, played Beanie Feldstein, is a vague skin of every character Rebel Wilson has ever played. When you deal with characters this weakly formed, you don’t really feel engaged in the story at all. You find yourself begging to get back to the other subplots.
“Neighbors 2” isn’t a terrible film that insults its main audience or tries to aspire for greatness and then falls flat. It’s just an unmemorable film that isn’t funny. There are some good moments amongst Rogen, Byrne and Efron, but everything else tries too hard. I can’t bring myself to dislike the film, though, because it is so bland and average that it is hard to feel anything other than apathy.