Where do you go with comedy sequels? The normal approach is this – take the premise of the original, and find some way to tweak it such that it can be presented as a new experience. That is exactly what happens in Bad Neighbours 2 – it flips the genders of the troublesome students, and plays much the same. It is crass and stupid, and not particularly inspired, but it offers some low-key fun that it certainly guaranteed to bring a smile to your face at the least.
The film catches up with married couple Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), who aim to sell their house when they learn they have another baby on the way. The sale goes smoothly, but their house is in escrow for 30 days – providing that everything goes fine, the sale will go through. It is at this point that a sorority move in next door – frustrated by the fact that only fraternities can party, the girls of Kappa Nu (led by Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz)) found their own house where they can do as they wish. They are aided by the Radner’s one-time enemy and ex-neighbour Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) until they kick him out, causing him to shift sides and help the couple try to get the wild sorority off the block. The girls, however, are not going down without a fight.
Bad Neighbours 2 doesn’t really bring anything new to the pot aside from gender flipping the antagonists – thus, if you didn’t like the first film, there is nothing for you here. It doesn’t particularly improve on anything from the original either – the jokes remain crass and simple (which I like, and think are funny, but you may not), and the story is fairly stale because it hits many of the same beats. However, in a film such as this, I think it doesn’t really matter – you’re in this for the fun it offers.
Many of the scenes are good fun – the welcome return of the first movie’s airbag gag is played for both good and for laughs, and it manages both. There’s a wonderfully crude scene involving tampons that’ll leave some viewers feeling queasy, and I found the head-cam shots of Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) running from the sorority dressed as the world’s most terrifying clown inexplicably hilarious.
Where the movie struggles a bit more is its trying to balance the emotional moments with the humour. Incredibly, the person who most generates any poignancy is Zac Efron, who (perhaps in a realisation of his actual career) is conscious that he is living in the past and that interest in him comes solely from his appearance. He is a man grappling with his own irrelevancy, and it is unexpectedly touching as he searches for a purpose – there is a self-awareness here that a bro-comedy tends to lack – although he somewhat unfairly also winds up with all the funniest lines too.
It works less well with the girls of Kappa Nu – the film wants to cast them as the baddies as well as have them as innocent girls we root for, and you’ll fall on one side only. Coupled with the incredibly half-baked ideas about feminism it mixes in but never manages to really explore nor understand (I think simply to give these massively underdeveloped girls some degree of character), and I found myself very against them. As a result, the film doesn’t really earn the happy ending it presents (although, of course, many will disagree).
Bad Neighbours 2 is the original, but less so. There is a lot to like here, but the film avoids the standard sequel trap of getting bigger and bolder to its own detriment. It covers a wide range of age concerns, but perhaps tries to cram too much in in an even shorter running time than before. I enjoyed it and it made me chuckle a whole bunch of times – there doesn’t need to be more to it than that, but the movie itself forces some interesting topics under the viewers’ noses and can’t properly deal with them. Watch for the comedy, try to block out anything else.
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Zac Efron (Teddy Sanders), Chloe Grace Moretz (Morgan), Seth Rogen (Mac Radner), Selena Gomez (Madison), Rose Byrne (Kelly Radner), Dave Franco (Pete)
Running Time: 92 Mins
Image credit: http://screenrant.com/neighbors-2-movie-reviews-2016/