If you recall, I actually quite enjoyed Neighbors! Sure, I was surprised that I liked it, but still. It was funny, and had an unexpected layer of heart! Unfortunately, the same cannot really be said for its successor, which finds about-to-move-to-a-new-house Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) stuck in escrow for 30 days, while former frat boy Teddy (Zac Efron) is emotionally stuck and trying to find his place in this world. More specifically, a place where he’s valued. GET IT? They’re all dealing with FINDING PLACES. Yes, it’s that subtle a movie.
So, when a trio of rebellious would-be sorority sisters – led by Shelby (a miscast Chloë Grace Moretz) – decide to rent Teddy’s former frat house (BECAUSE THEY ALSO NEED A PLACE), Mac and Kelly panic that they’ll scare off their own home’s would-be buyers. And what would otherwise be a very easy problem to remedy becomes an outrageously forced “conflict” when the sisters – FOR NO DISCERNABLE REASON other than to manufacture a plot for this movie – reject Mac and Kelly’s very pleasant request to just not party for 30 days. Inexplicably, the girls instantly go from outsiders to complete assholes, doing everything they can to make their neighbors’ lives a living hell. WTF?
Buried beneath the gross-out humor and juvenile antics is, apparently, a feminist-empowerment subtext… but, sorry, it’s pretty weak and unconvincing. Instead, the film is 90-ish minutes of vindictive behavior amidst which Teddy finds varying degrees of purpose on both sides of the turf battle.
Though I did laugh out loud a few times during Neighbors 2, for the most part the entire thing felt uninspired and derivative. Mac and Kelly are rendered caricatures, Shelby and her friends are hugely irritating and unlikable (unlike the immature but still weirdly endearing frat boys of the first film), and Teddy – who’s the only semblance of genuine heart or emotion in the film – becomes a second fiddle when, in reality, a movie about him dealing with his post-collegiate angst would have been much more engaging than this mess.
Moretz is not believable for a second as a weed-smoking, anti-establishment anarchist. It was like watching goody-two-shoes-y, Type-A spokesperson Reese Witherspoon try to be dark and edgy and tough. I didn’t buy it, and that (I think) is probably one of the key reasons the film just didn’t work for me. Shelby seems to be mean solely to satisfy the needs of the narrative, and Moretz (IMO) didn’t pull it off. Rogen and Byrne, meanwhile, have little to do save for react, which is too bad – did their characters learn nothing from the first film?
Come to think of it, did the filmmakers?
The Blu-ray/DVD set includes feature commentary by writer/director Nicholas Stoller and producer James Weaver, plus a gaggle of featurettes including “Nu Neighbors–Making of the Sequel”, “The Prodigal Bros Return”, “Girls Rule”, “The Ultimate Tailgate”, “Line-O-Rama”, plus deleted scenes and a gag reel.