Are Seth Rogen and his bro-comedy gang growing up or is it the audience? That’s a question well worth posing when scoping this sequel to 2014’s Neighbors, in which cool couple Mac (Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Byrne) played baby-rearing adults forced to take on the viciously fraternal animal house that moved in next door. Having vanquished Delta Psi Beta leaders Teddy (Efron) and Pete (Franco) in the first film, now the family, with a newborn in tow, is on the verge of selling their homestead but instead find themselves trapped (in 30-day escrow – how could they not know about that?) yet again by an onslaught of collegians hell-bent on making Van Wilder seem like Ryan Reynolds.
The twist – and it’s a smart, effective one to be sure – is that this time it’s not a bunch of beergasming dudebros making life hell for the Radners, but an off-campus sorority led by Moretz’s feminist-slash-party powerhouse blonde, Shelby. The tables have been skewed, both storywise and culturally in a mere two years, and the comic groundwork in this sequel is the better for it, providing as it does a riposte (of sorts) to decades of frat-rat-a-tat machismo that dates back, I’m fairly certain, to the dawn of mankind. (Cinematically speaking, 1960’s Where the Boys Are feels at least a little like something of a precedent here.)
This being a Seth Rogen film, there’s no shortage of doofy weed jokes and bizarro moments. Mac’s Pearl Jam T-shirt codes him as a doomed “oldster,” but then there’s seriously affecting subplots such as when one of the previous film’s upstarts decides to get married to his male partner and his former fraternity brothers struggle to help him with his vows. Neighbors 2 is best when it head-butts (bosoms?) its way through the scrum of prior testosterone-fueled college-aimed comedies to show that: a) “Rapey” frat parties are a thing that happens, and that shit isn’t funny, bro; b) Sisterhood is more powerful than ever, even – and maybe even more importantly – in a Rogen film; and c) Girls just wanna have fun, without having to worry about “a.”
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