I’m a complex man of diverse cinematic tastes. Sometimes I want sweeping meditations on the universe’s great unanswered mysteries, emotionally grueling introspections into the human condition. And sometimes I just want to laugh my not-inconsiderate behind off as the slovenly Seth Rogen and human Ken doll Zac Efron get up to really dumb crap. Sometimes involving sex toys.
And yes, Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising is filled to bursting with dumb crap – crass, juvenile and sophomoric dumb crap, to be exact – but it just so happens to also be “ugly laugh out loud” hilarious. And if there’s an unmistakable air of familiarity to that previous sentence, it’s simply because Bad Neighbours 2, in the broader strokes, is pretty much a facsimile of its predecessor. Just even funnier.
Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are still our flawed 30-something every-parent heroes, but this time their new parent neuroses – which offered most of what little narrative depth there existed previously – take a slight sidestep to make way for some pointed observations on sexism. Said observers this time around are Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein), three new pot-loving college fresh(wo)men who become friends after receiving a rude awakening to the college Greek system.
Upon attempting to join the prim and preppy sorority Phi Lambda Phi, they learn that an actual law prevents college girl sororities from throwing parties. This leaves them nowhere to let their hair down except for the ragingly sexist dude bro events – all spiked punch and clumsy advances – thrown by the male fraternities.
So the ladies decide to start their own off-campus sorority, where girls can just have fun. Cyndi Lauper would be proud. They find the perfect sorority venue in the now empty house right next to Mac and Kelly, previously occupied by rabble rousing fraternity Delta Psi Beta led by Teddy (Efron). The former frat leader, still unwilling to embrace adult responsibilities (or shirts, really), decides to help establish the fledgling sorority, living vicariously through his young uproarious protégés.
But this jeopardizes Mac and Kelly’s plan to sell their house and move to their dream home as their prospective buyers have a 30-day escrow clause where they’re allowed to drop by at any time, and if they see anything out of the ordinary, they can cancel the deal. But when the newly established sorority Kappa Kappa Nu takes college debauchery to heights that not even Teddy can stomach, it prompts him to switch sides and help former foes Mac and Kelly to get rid of the girls next door. And just like that, it is once again war.
Or more accurately, waR, as Bad Neighbours 2 fully embraces its R-rating with everything from pest infestations to bodily fluids to Zac Efron’s testicles being used as salvos by the two respective sides as they try to oust each other. It’s wanly scripted and low-brow for sure, but who cares about the vertical inclination of your brows, when your toothy smile is stretching across the entire lower hemisphere of your face? It’s just that f–king hilarious!
Returning director Nicholas Stoller once again wrangles very game performances from his cast who all lean into their roles with madcap aplomb. And they need it as Stoller never shies away from his ribald material one bit. Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien once again claim scripting duties, but they get some assistance this time around from Stoller, Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The result won’t be winning any awards for character depth or narrative complexity anytime soon, but it offers just meaty enough ruminations on gender equality and encroaching adulthood.
This time around though, Stoller and co have a much better grasp of how to present these moments of cognition, culminating in the punched-up and sharper slew of guffaw-inducing physical gags and topically hilarious barbs flying thick and fast around these beats without losing any comedic velocity at all.
But that being said, there’s no denying the fact that Bad Neighbors 2 is a Hollywood sequel in every unimaginative sense of the term: Little to no deviation from an already established formula, just going bigger in stakes. Luckily though, its also even funnier than its predecessor, which is enough to (just about) forgive its lack of evolution.
And ironically, given the arc of Efron’s Teddy, that lack of evolution doesn’t appear to bother the filmmakers one bit. This is a movie clearly made under no allusions of sophistication – even with its admirable undercurrent of social commentary – and that naked ambition is why it succeeds so wildly. Yes, with every salty F-bomb, every jiggly dildo joke you’ll cringe as much as you’ll laugh but once you just embrace the degeneracy, you’ll find one of the purely funniest films of the year thus far. Even if you kind of already saw it in 2014.
Last Updated: May 5, 2016