“Don’t call them hos. That’s not cool anymore.”
Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are a few years older, but not much wiser. They’ve purchased a new house outside of town, but then they’re told (once more) that they have 30 days of escrow to sit through before they can dump their current home. They live on edge, keeping the house clean, and hiding their bongs and vibrators from when the potential new owners come a knocking. Nearly in the clear, a new sorority decides to move in next door, into the house that the Delta Psi fraternity made infamous in NEIGHBORS. It’s a nearly identical trope to the first film, but even with the comparable plot, NEIGHBORS 2 never skimps on laughs or charm.
The sorority in question is Kappa Nu. It’s started by Shelby, Beth, and Nora (Chloë Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein). The three girls bond after initially pledging to Phi Lamda. They’re (rightfully) turned off by Lamda’s president (played by Selena Gomez in a glorified cameo) who welcomes everyone to the club, but then quickly scolds Shelby when she lights up a joint. They all then proceed to a frat party where the boys (not men) at the door only allow those they deem attractive to enter, and stripper poles adorn the rooms. They leave and Beth correctly states, “It was so rapey in there.”
Kappa Nu offers everything that official fraternities and sororities cannot. (One thing being the right to host parties, which I just learned is an actual thing in real life.) Instead of keggers, they throw Feminist Icon parties. The girls dress up as Oprah, Joan of Arc, and three different variations of Hilary Clinton. They also sob together during movie night while watching THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Members can wear t-shirts and shorts, or sweatshirts and sneakers, or short skirts and heels. Kappa Nu is an inclusive group, a place to make friends, get high, and create memories. The snag is that rent is high, but a familiar face returns to aid in their momentary money problem.
Teddy (Zac Efron) still hasn’t found a place in the world. After losing the turf war to Mac and Kelly in the first film, he resigned to enrolling in night classes and being a topless model for Abercrombie. He lives with his best friend, Pete (Dave Franco), and the two still bro out, setting up poker nights with old Delta Psi members, and posting selfies to Instagram. But they’re all adults now, save for Teddy, and it’s a rude awakening when Pete gets engaged to his boyfriend and asks Teddy to move out so they can all move forward in life.
Teddy is an adorable doofus. He is still completely ripped (“His arms look like two veiny dicks.”), but utterly lost in anything other than the gym. He’s squatting in his old Delta Psi home when he meets the trio of girls. He offers them help, partly to get back at Mac and Kelly, but mostly to have a place to call home. But all good things must come to an end, and Kappa Nu eventually grows tired of Teddy’s newfound voice of reason, calling him “an old person,” the kiss of death in his eyes. Teddy is a sinking ship, and joining forces with Mac and Kelly could be his last remaining lifeline. Efron is amazing in it. Underneath his muscular frame is some serious comedic timing. Some of the film’s best scenes come whenever he shares time with Rogen. There are countless hysterical lines but also some real touching ones, like when Teddy tells him about sleeping in his car, or when Mac tries teaching him how to boil eggs (“How come they get hard, but pasta gets soft?”). There’s also a spectacular dance scene where the male gaze gets completely flipped on its head.
Rose Byrne as always is a marvel. Sadly, she’s not featured quite as much as she was in NEIGHBORS, but when she’s onscreen, every scene crackles. While the hedonistic first film focused so much on the feud between the two houses, NEIGHBORS 2 thankfully takes a bit more time to inhale and we see more of Kelly and Mac’s family life. They love being parents, but admit to making a multitude of mistakes along the way. It’s amazing how many heartfelt moments that are sprinkled in such a raunchy comedy. One particularly tender one literally brought tears to my eyes when the two are in bed talking about how quickly their daughter is growing up. Not what I was expecting in a film where a three-year-old girl dresses up a dildo as a princess.
NEIGHBORS is a funny movie, and misogynistic. Every female associated with Delta Psi was there simply to look sexy, or buy penis molds from the frat. NEIGHBORS 2 is a total improvement, perhaps not on number of laughs (though there are plenty), but in overall message. When Teddy first approaches Shelby and co. about assisting in their attempt to form their own sorority, they exchange ideas in which to raise money. Teddy offers party themes like “Boise Boys and Idahos,” and others of the like. Shelby asks him why the titles all serve to demean women; Teddy acts incredulously before admitting to his mea culpa.
Both the writers and the characters grow from the first movie. Comedy can and should get away with a lot, but director Nicholas Stoller has infused some essential talking points for women’s lib. Kappa Nu do some downright loathsome things to their neighbors in the battle for supremacy, but you still find yourself somewhat rooting for them. They’re fighting for their right to party and equal ownership of everyday liberties. I laughed and cheered when Mac replies with a, “No, fuck you.” after his friend Jimmy tries to dap him for “Men’s rights.”
When things don’t exactly go their way, Shelby, Beth, and Nora share an existential struggle about whether to conform to the heavy-handed societal masses or continue following the path less taken. NEIGHBORS 2 is a terrific comedy, and a gem of a sequel. It has a wonderful, unforeseen, in your face message, and is a rare film that provides not only laughs, but a platform for some important discourse. Because when the working day is done, girls just wanna have fundamental rights.