Thursday, June 9, 2016

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising Review

Maybe I am being unfair to the genre and perhaps I am just not seeing the right films, but the bar for comedy has gotten so low for me. So, so low. I recently sat through the new Adam Sandler Netflix movie The Do-Over and I couldn't even crack a smile, so I should have known that whatever I followed that up with would be a delight by comparison.

Congratulations, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. You secured the enviable position of being the comedy I watched next, and yes, by comparison this film is so much better than the Sandler filth.

However, before anyone thinks this is a shout from the rooftops recommendation or even any sort of endorsement at all, pump the breaks. Neighbors 2 is better, there is no doubt about that, but after sleeping on it and letting the merits of the picture itself meld into my mind, the truth is this is nothing more than an adequate, mediocre sequel.

The first Neighbors was fine, a movie that played a lot stronger the first time through sitting in a crowded theater than the second time in my living room when I had to generate my own comedic energy. It's not that it's a bad film in any environment, I just opened my eyes to the realization that it wasn't as good as I once thought. In that way Neighbors 2 does exactly what it should do, serve as a perfect companion piece for its predecessor, but unfortunately here that's only a middle of the road work that earns a few hearty laughs and a handful of mild chuckles but also has plenty of material that completely falls flat.

I don't know the box office numbers that Neighbors pulled in, but it was obviously enough to merit a sequel and I assume when director Nicholas Stoller got together with the room full of writers (5 of them including star Seth Rogen), they basically said, it's not broke so let's not fix it. Essentially what I am getting at here is, the sequel felt an awful lot like the first one. This time around it isn't a fraternity that has moved in next door but rather a sorority, and the stakes aren't young parents trying to get their newborn daughter to sleep, it's that they have to sell their house and the college girls partying next door have put a potential sale in jeopardy. The tone of the humor feels identical, which will win over those that love the first film but I couldn't help but wonder if the nagging word floating through my mind throughout was lazy. The whole thing just felt like a easy paycheck rather than any attempt to create something interesting. One could say that the recent Jump Street films exemplified this, but at least with those Phil Lord and Chris Miller were self-aware enough to make fun of the fact that the two movies were so obviously similar.

I have come across a fair amount of people who have praised the progressive nature of Neighbors 2, with the way a homosexual relationship is treated with kindness and even more importantly, normalcy, and the way that women are portrayed with the sorority wanting to rise above sexism and the expectations of their gender versus the reality of just living their truths, whatever those happen to be. This praise is without a doubt fair and proved to be one of the strongest aspects of the movie for me, but it's just not enough to actually warrant a thumbs up for the entire experience. I am all for a comedy that avoids homophobia and sexism to elicit cheap laughs(didn't I mention The Do-Over earlier?), but that alone cannot trick my mind into believing I admired the whole work.

The first Neighbors was fine. The sequel is about the same, maybe even a little less fine because of the familiarity factor. We have been in that house before and whether it was a fraternity or a sorority next door, a majority of the jokes feel pretty tired. You can do a lot worse than Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. You can also do a whole lot better.


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