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"NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING"
(2016) (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Having previously survived a fraternity moving in next door to them, a married couple must now contend with a sorority doing the same, all of which threatens the sale of their house.
PLOT:
Mac (SETH ROGEN) and Kelly Radner (ROSE BYRNE) live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood with their toddler daughter, Stella (ELISE VARGAS). Yet, they're ready to move, what with a baby on the way, and they've found buyers, but are in a 30-day escrow period. Things look good for clearing that, what with their previous run-in with Teddy Sanders (ZAC EFRON), Pete (DAVE FRANCO), Scoonie (CHRISTOPHER MINTZ-PLASSE), Garfield (JERROD CARMICHAEL) and others of the party-hearty Delta Psi Beta frat house next door now long behind them.

Unbeknownst to them, college freshman Shelby (CHLOE GRACE MORETZ), Beth (KIERSEY CLEMONS) and Nora (BEANIE FELDSTEIN) -- upset to learn that only fraternities go throw parties on college campuses nationwide -- have decided to create their own sorority off-campus, and the former DPB house is currently empty. Even more shocking and operating out of revenge against the Radners, Teddy has decided to be the consultant for Kappa Nu, and the partying begins immediately. What follows is a battle of the wills and various attempts to undermine the other side, with Mac and Kelly calling in their married friends Jimmy (IKE BARINHOLTZ) and Paula (CARLA GALLO) to help them battle the girls, all while also getting an unlikely ally in the form of a former enemy.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
As a former aspiring screenwriter who occasionally dabbles in that from time to time, my focus in reviewing most movies is in the script. Sure, you can occasionally have an entertaining flick with a mediocre screenplay, but 99.999999% of the time it's the most important thing a film can possess. After all, think of movies that featured huge stars or A-list directors and yet bombed, with most if not all of the failure linked back to the writing.

Along with the quality of that, I'm sometimes also intrigued by the number of people associated with any given script. Probably to no one's surprise, both the most satisfying but sometimes the most difficult thing is writing an original script by yourself, whereas sequels can be easy in one regard (the groundwork has already been laid), but daunting in another (trying to outdo the original yet remain faithful to the material).

I've never done it, but some people like writing as duos or groups of scribes, but whenever I see more than three names listed as the writers, I nearly always realize something is amiss. With three, you might have the original single or duo having first crack at the material, followed by a duo or single being brought in for a rewrite.

But when that number equals four, five or more writers, it's never a good sign. And that could very well signal what's wrong with "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" that arrives courtesy of the 50 fingers belonging to Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O'Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

The sequel to the 2014 comedy "Neighbors" (that had just two writers), it's little more than a continuation-meets-rehash of the material from that film. Having defeated the party-hearty fraternity of Delta Psi Beta that moved in next door to them, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), are now pregnant again and have sold their house in order to move into a bigger place. While they're a bit confused by the 30-day escrow period and what that entails, everything seems good to go. That is, until three college freshman (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein) -- upset to learn that unlike fraternities sororities can't throw parties in their house -- decide to open their own off-campus sorority and the perfect place is in the empty house next door.

Seemingly complicating matters is that the former frat president (Zac Efron) is still miffed about what happened in the first film and thus allies with the girls to help them get set up, all while giving him the chance to get back at the married couple who ruined his fun (this, after his now gay roommate -- played by Dave Franco -- has gotten engaged and awkwardly asked him to move out).

It's not long before the music is loud, the ganja is puffed, the bikinis are exhibited and used tampons are thrown against the neighbors' windows. Yes, you read that correctly, and that's pretty much the height (or depths, if you will) of the comedic material the five scribes offer up to viewers. Granted, the first film certainly wasn't some sort of highbrow comedy with refined tastes. But beyond that, a bit of vomitous coitus interruptus and other such material, the attempted "drive the neighbors out" shenanigans aren't even remotely inspired, something that also bedeviled the first film.

Sure, there are some laughs to be had here and there, but many of them (including the air bag projectile material) are simply recycled from the last time we saw these characters. And the whole bit about showing "strong" feminine characters (as compared to the crude testosterone laced antics last time around) ends up as little more than window dressing. In short, the female empowerment angle as demonstrated by the sorority sisters isn't even remotely fleshed out enough and certainly not applied like it could and should have been.

Like before, there's so much untapped potential in the general premise that you'd think those plentiful fingers could have come up with something more inspired or at least funny than is presented during the pic's 90-some minute runtime. Alas, that doesn't occur, and what we're left with is a rather lame rehash of the first film -- with a few meager additions -- that wasn't any great shakes to begin with.

Should this one turn out to be a hit like the last, I guess next up will be the drama students moving in next door, or perhaps the math or science geeks. Then again, it could be the debate team that at least should force the writers to be more resourceful in penning the script. The ones for installment part deux certainly weren't, and thus "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed May 17, 2016 / Posted May 20, 2016


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