Film Review: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

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Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising Plot SUmmary

Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner’s (Rose Byrne) plan to sell their house hit a snag when a sorority moves in next door. They ask the girls to behave themselves during their 30-day escrow period, but Shelby (Chloé Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) want to party. Helping them along the way is the Radners’ former frat house rival, Teddy (Zac Efron).neighbors-2-poster

The first Neighbors is a decent comedy. What made it such a hit were the ways it subverted expectations. Take Rose Byrne’s Kelly. Rather than stand around rolling her eyes at the boys’ antics, she’s dives right into the war of pranks and thinks up some of its most diabolical moments. Equally surprising was the way Neighbors leaned into the frat’s homoeroticism, essentially hinging Teddy’s motivations on his desire to protect Delta Psi’s brotherhood and his friendship with Dave Franco’s Pete. It was a smart take on a familiar premise. The same is true of its sequel, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.

Rogen and the handful of other (male) writers behind the movie aren’t just remaking the original with girls swapped out for boys. They actually explore how a sorority would fundamentally change the dynamic while also avoiding the tired clichés that often populate stories about young girls. For instance, from the moment Shelby drops the information that she’s a virgin, you expect it to figure into the plot later—especially after she sets eyes on Teddy. But the movie never goes there. Instead, we’re told she lost it in a throwaway gag during a party montage. Moretz’s character provides a lot of the film’s more subversive moments, actually. During a chase scene, Shelby–who we discover is a former track and field star–shocks her rivals as she uses a flag to vault over a truck. She also throws a mean right hook, establishing a pretty great running joke about what brawlers the Kappa Nu sisters happen to be.

There are actually a couple of great running jokes in the movie. Some of them are just fun. For instance, the fact that Shelby, Beth and Nora are using some of the pledges as literal Minions, even making them dress up in yellow caps and overalls as they do mundane household tasks. It’s an obvious bit of studio cross-promotion, but the flashes we see of what the Minion Girls are doing are some of the biggest laughs in the movie. Perhaps the best running joke, though, are the moments when Shelby does something awful and then immediately hedges, asking the other girls if she’s being too mean. They reassure her each time and Nora even points out that nobody would even ask that question if she were a man. Observed quickly, the joke just seems like a clever acknowledgement of female behavior, but it’s really pointing out the way women are required to perform femininity.

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From the beginning, the girls are actively fighting against the restrictions placed on them simply because they’re women. They don’t like that only frats are allowed to throw parties, so they start a sorority outside the system. They don’t like the meat market objectification common to frat parties, so they throw cleverly themed fêtes where they dress up like Oprah or cry over The Fault in Our Stars together. Their friendship is their #1 priority and they don’t seem to care what men think. Yet the smartest thing about the way the girls push against gender expectations is that it emphasizes how hard it is to when society constantly rewards them for falling in line.

Not to spoil the ending, but there’s a moment when the girls of Kappa Nu have to sacrifice some of what they stand for to stay afloat. A cynic could argue that that shows how empty their commitment to being better was in the first place. But the truth is much subtler and sadder. What Rogen et al. are pointing out is that sometimes, in order to retain some modicum of power, women have to compromise in ways men don’t. And while those compromises start small, they always leads to more until one day, so much has been sacrificed that you end up betraying everything you stood for. It’s a heavy message for a comedy that also features a moment where Zac Efron’s balls pop out of his shorts while he dances, but a movie that can juggle (sorry) those tones so well is worth your time and money.

Rating: 9/10

By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to.