Two years ago, “Neighbors” writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, along with director Nicholas Stoller, reinvented the classic college party movie by pitting the frat guys against the young parents next door. It was a raunchy but sweet rumination on getting older and growing out of party mode, a refreshing take on the college movie formula. With “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” they’ve flipped the script, creating a feminist party classic that’s completely current and doesn’t skimp on any of the wild humor. It’s also even better than its predecessor.
Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein as the freshman founding members of Kappa Nu, the film takes on a real world issue that’s a legitimate problem on college campuses. Greek sorority houses aren’t allowed to host parties with alcohol, so the majority of college parties take place in the “boys rule” atmosphere of fraternities, often predatory environments with themes that are usually sexist and designed to get girls into skimpy outfits.
The picture-perfect sororities of flower crowns and sundresses also aren’t the right fit for Shelby (Moretz), Beth (Clemons) and Nora (Feldstein). This is a trio of girls who want to party on their own turf and by their own rules. So they find their own house, formerly the Delta Psi house next door to 30-something parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Bryne).
The couple are currently attempting to sell the property, and just need to get through 30 days of escrow before the new buyers (Abbi Jacobson and Sam Richardson, stealing the show) move in and have to deal with the Greeks. How do they confront the wild new sorority next door? A prank war, of course. If it worked against Zac Efron and the Delta Psis, how bad can some teenage girls be?
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Take “Animal House” or “Revenge of the Nerds,” and turn the gender roles inside out, and you’ll have “Neighbors 2.” In fact, eliminate almost all of the guys. The girls have no real interest in these slovenly dudes. Efron as Teddy, the former frat guy who can’t let go of his college lifestyle, is simply there to be objectified, a role he embraces by performing a “Magic Mike” style dance number while oiled up in barbecue grease. They refer to him as “Hot Guy.”
The film derives a lot of humor from embracing and also complicating stereotypes. These girls are at once absorbed in their phones, but also physically powerful. They wage war through texting, and always refer to their neighbors as “the old people.” Those “old people,” Kelly and Mac, question their own parenting skills, but they’ve embraced the role of parenthood, vowing to do what parents do best: stop young people from having fun. Their realization that their toddler daughter will one day grow up to be a petulant teen leads to a touching moment that gets at the bittersweet nature of parenthood.
Isn’t it time that the ladies got their own rollicking, foul-mouthed, THC-soaked party movie? The fact that it contains a profoundly progressive message about the difficulties of bucking an inherently sexist system helps its instant-classic status. With high school graduation season upon us, “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” should be required viewing for anyone matriculating into college next year. Congrats, grads: Good luck, have fun and remember – never drink the punch.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloë Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Rated R (crude sexual content including brief graphic nudity, language throughout, drug use and teen partying)