“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” director Nicholas Stoller has defied probability and made a sensational sequel, “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” (***1/2 OUT OF ****), that surpasses its above-average predecessor. Nevertheless, the second “Neighbors” movie serves up some rather risqué humor. Seth Rogen delivers the best example. When he introduces a Semitic couple to an American couple, Rogen points out that the pregnant Hebrew woman has “a Jew in the oven.” This qualifies as the most controversial line in an otherwise empowering comedy of errors. The lead couple’s young daughter forms an attachment to her mother’s vibrator and goes everywhere with it. The parents are as imbecilic as the Greeks. At one point, the sorority launches an artillery barrage of bloody tampons at the house inhabited by the thirty-something married couple. A couple of days ago before I saw “Neighbors 2,” I watched “Neighbors” on DVD for the first time. I split my sides laughing at all its subversive shenanigans. The “Neighbors” movies revived memories of “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” Fans of the first “Neighbors” should relish the sequel, but the producers have broadened the demographics with the sequel to empower women. Furthermore, Stoller’s riotous sequel succeeds because he has made few changes to the surefire farcical formula that coined “Neighbors” $270 million globally back in 2014.
Some things, however, have changed in “Neighbors 2,” but most of the original cast return for cameos, including Officer Watkins (Hannibal Buress) the traffic cop. Aside from the “Neighbors’” alums, Selena Gomez and Kelsey Grammer appear in bit cameos. Gomez plays a sorority president, while Grammer is the father of the heroine. Like the original movie, the plot is simple, shallow, and swiftly paced, but with a better ending. Although all six scenarists are guys, they have made the women appear more sympathetic than slutty. The estrogen-driven plot positions these female-friendly characters in the forefront of the action, something that “Neighbors” never had. Basically, the loutish Delta Psi fraternity constituted the bad guys in “Neighbors,” while the Kappa Nu girls appear far less antagonistic. Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz of “Carrie”), Beth (Kiersey Clemons of “Dope”), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein of “Fan Girl”) are college freshmen. They attend a sorority rush party. Audacious Shelby fires up a joint. Phi Lambda President Madison (Selena Gomez of “Spring Breakers”) reprimands our heroine and stipulates that their sorority tolerates neither alcohol nor drugs. Worse, Shelby learns the Greek sisters aren’t allowed to throw parties. The trio make tracks and form their own off-campus sorority so they can party as they please. Predictably, since it is the sequel, they buy the house that the Delta Psi brothers once occupied, much to Mac and Kelly’s chagrin.
Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne encore as the foolish, parenting-impaired, married couple. Miraculously, Mac Radner (Seth Rogen of “Knocked Up”) and his wife Kelly (Rose Byrne of “Bridesmaids”), survived the escapades of the Delta Psi fraternity. They have a second child on the way, and they plan to leave the neighborhood. Just when everything appears promising for the sale of their house, the Kappa Nu sorority shows up. Mac and Kelly have sold their starter home to an interracial couple with an infant child. However, the Radners’ real estate agent, Wendy (Liz Cackowski of “The Watch”), reminds them that the buyers have a 30-day escrow period to ponder their purchase. When Mac and Kelly discover that Shelby and company have bought the house next door, they cringe at the prospect of what will occur if the new buyers drop by at a bad time. Worse, they encounter an old adversary.
Adonis-chiseled Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) returns along with some of his former Delta Psi Beta brothers, but things have changed with them, too. You may recall from watching “Neighbors” that Teddy Sanders was the Delta Psi president and his closest friend Pete (Dave Franco of “Superbad”) was vice-president. After the debacle in “Neighbors,” Pete graduated and got a good job, while poor Teddy became a bare-chested model for Abercrombie & Fitch. Unfortunately, Abercrombie & Fitch has decided they no longer need a shirtless model. Not long afterward, Teddy learns that Pete plans to marry, but Pete isn’t going to wed a woman. Instead, he decides to marry another ex-frat, Darren (John Early), and they ask Teddy to vacate the premises! Teddy goes to the place of last refuge–the house next door to the Radners. He happens to be around when shady Kappa Nu real estate agent Oliver Studebaker (Billy Eichner of “What Happens in Vegas”) sells Shelby and her friends the house. These gals don’t have a clue about how to finance the house, much less recruit sorority members, but Teddy has all the answers. Moreover, Teddy sees this as a way to pay back the Radners. When Mac and Kelly meet him again with Shelby and company, they know that their dreams are swirling the drain.
If you remember anything about “Neighbors,” you may recall it opened with Mac and Kelly getting intimate in a chair. Mac got flustered because their infant daughter Stella was eyeballed them innocently during the sex act. Similarly, “Neighbors 2” begins with Mac and Kelly at it again, but Kelly has a bout of morning sickness and barfs on Mac. Remember, “Neighbors” and “Neighbors 2” qualify as lowest common denominator comedies that thrive on offensive, gross-out gags galore. Not-surprisingly, Zac Efron has a difficult time wearing his shirt. Stoller and his writers exploit Teddy’s bare-chested antics to propel the plot forward, especially during a zany marijuana heist scene. As improbable as the “Neighbors” movies are, I find the premise credible. One of my close friends experienced a similar predicament. They went through what the thirty-something married couple dealt with in “Neighbors” after a bawdy college fraternity brought the house next door and complicated their lives. Apart from its outrageous humor, “Neighbors 2” not only serves to empower women, but it also refuses to ridicule gays. Anybody who loved the original “Neighbors” will laugh their butts off at the randy sequel.