Published on May 26th, 2016 | by Ian Goodwillie0
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
In a sea of bad movies about college frat houses, Neighbors 2 rises to the top alongside decent movies like Animal House and Old School.
This is the kind of movie you honestly don’t expect much from. Dumb dick joke bro comedy about college that’s been done to death. We’ve seen it dozens of times before, both in good and bad iterations. Movies like Van Wilder, Animal House, and Old School are a few of the higher watermarks, keeping in mind that’s a relative statement. There is some real garbage in this genre.
As such, I didn’t pay much attention to Neighbors and I had little intention of giving its sequel much thought. Then a couple of trailers caught my eye.
Unlike most of these movies, Neighbors 2, as the subtitle would success, is about a sorority. This is a difference that does matter. The focus on all three of the previously mentioned films is the male college experience, and in two cases fraternities. But why is it usually frats and rarely sororities?
Quite early in the film it establishes the reality that sororities can’t throw parties. Only frats can and the girls can go there to party. It’s also established quite early that parties at the frat house are not always the best experience for the ladies. It has the potential to be an uncomfortable and pressure-filled experience, if not a dangerous one. Some of the young women looking to jump into the sorority experience decide the smart move is to make their own way and start a sorority outside the system. But it’s about more than partying; it’s about feeling safe and comfortable.
Naturally, they choose to start this sorority in the same house as Zac Efron’s frat from the first movie. And they even enlist his help in establishing it.
Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne are back, this time with baby number two on the way and in the process of selling their house. In the face of this pack of party animals moving in next door, they have to somehow complete sale and escape to the suburbs.
First and foremost, this movie is filled with funny performances from very funny people. Rogen and Efron play off each other well. Rose Byrne is hysterical. And the young women that comprise the sorority, particularly Chloe Grace Moretz, are epic, taking gross out ‘frat humor’ in a distinctly female direction, for lack of a better term, and own in it. This is a movie that casts Hannibal Burress as a cop, a role being reprised from the first film, and he does it well. The sequence of him and Jerrod Carmichael shutting down drug dealers is amazing.
But there’s unexpected depth in this film, too.
The mission of the sorority is a response to a real problem of sexism and danger that exists in this frat for young women. This movie does not shy away from this reality, and hits it head on. While Sorority Rising uses this for comedy, the movie doesn’t diminish the severity of the problem.
Zac Efron’s alpha douche bro actually plays a big part in attacking this issue. When the sorority girls meet him, he can’t figure out why they wouldn’t just want to go to frat parties. They point out the inherent and blatant sexism to him. He stops, thinks about it, and is almost immediately horrified by everything he was party to during that era of his life. The simple message of, ‘stop and think’ is a surprisingly poignant one.
The nature of the relationship between Rogen and Byrne is an accurate one. They are constantly trying to convince themselves that their children are not going to grow up and move on with their own lives, a reality that becomes very apparent when Kelsey Grammar shows up to reprimand his daughter at the behest of Rogen and Byrne. The final moments of the film feature an extremely bittersweet moment with the young parents and their oldest daughter. Acceptance of this future comes with difficulty.
Even Zac Efron’s alpha douche bro has a solid arc. His friends are moving on with their lives and leaving him behind. Instead of moving on, he finds a way to relive old glories by facing off against Rogen and Byrne again. But he also tries to find redemption for past misdeeds by helping the sorority, even if he doesn’t know it. There is a lot more than expected going on in this movie.
Sorority Rising was so intriguing that I actually went to a video store and rented a copy of the first movie.
Yeah, you read that right. I rented it. I went to a brick and mortar building then gave someone money to borrow the movie for a specified amount of time. That is still an option that exists. But I digress.
Again, there was a lot of surprisingly well-executed frat humor with more serious undertones in Neighbors. Zac Efron’s search for meaning in his life starts here. Rogen and Byrne are brand new parents coming to terms with their changing roles. And both parties are trying to avoid reality by hiding behind this overblown adversarial relationship. That strategy of avoidance continues in Neighbors 2 with the sorority caught in the middle.
In amongst the frat-now-sorority jokes and low brow comedy, there are more than a few salient points being made in these movies. And the success of transitioning this style comedy to a group of women in college instead of men is an important one. Anyone concerned that Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising could not live up to the pedigree set by Van Wilder, Animal House, and Old School can check those concerns at the door.
For this style of comedy, Sorority Rising is as good as it gets.