Bad Neighbours 2, 2016.
Directed by Nicholas Stoller.
Starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloe Grace Moretz, Dave Franco, Kiersey Clemons, Ike Barinholtz, Selena Gomez, Carla Gallo and Lisa Kudrow.
After a sorority moves in next door, which is even more debaucherous than the fraternity before it, Mac and Kelly have to ask for help from their former enemy, Teddy.
We’ve all been here before: the dreaded comedy sequel. In theory, the thought of returning to the well with some of the characters you grew to love brings much anticipation, but more often than not the result is of thunderous disappointment. Sequels to Ted, Dumb & Dumber, The Hangover (two of them!) and Zoolander to name a few have come and gone with little in the way of lasting impression for those so enamoured the first time around. There have been success mind you (22 Jump Street, Back to the Future II) so there was hope for Bad Neighbours 2, the latest to try its luck on the comedy wheel of fortune. Surprisingly, this one passes the test – and then some.
Two years after the events of the first, when the rambunctious fraternity Delta Psi Beta, led by Zac Efron and Dave Franco, invaded the living space of newlyweds/parents Mac and Kelly (Rogen and Byrne) and causew\WQd havoc at every turn. Now, with their new daughter a little older and a second on the way, the couple are selling the old house and moving to pastures new. But before you can say escrow (a source of much of the films early funnies), they have new neighbours: the girls of newly formed sorority Kappa New, led by Shelby (Moretz), who plan to shake the shackles of modern-day sororities (no parties) and expand their teenage horizons with the help of an old “frienemy”.
Plot-wise there isn’t really much to report, but what it may lack substance it makes up for with some brilliant comedy moments and energetic pacing while also having surprising depth: it’s uniquely Rogen-Goldberg trademarks are all present and correct, but the delicacy that the duo (as well as director Stoller) manage it is depiction of modern feminism through both the young and older, male friendship and sexuality of both sides is handled with the utmost respect, almost paying tribute to such things rather than making them the brunt of the joke. Perhaps The Interview experience has softened the company somewhat into crafting their comedy in such a different way that adds a freshness to their appeal while still keeping those fans of their previous works just as entertained.
Indeed even Rogen himself, always front and centre as star/writer/producer in almost everything he does, is softer here: his usual drug and alcohol-infused antics still have their brief moments (as does his own ample six-pack), but Mac has come to terms with adulthood, maturing into a fully-fledged father-figure able to guide both his daughter and the other young ones around him with great wisdom. Efron though is sadly is the odd-man out here, with the script really struggling to find a place for him that isn’t the token “hot piece” of the film. While he gets a few decent scenes with fellow returnee Dave Franco, the film wrestles back and forth with ideas as to where to take the character but for the most part he feels rather perfunctory and you wonder whether an extended cameo may have served him a little better. That said, some of the films more touching moments come from his evolving friendship with Rogen.
But it’s the lead ladies who shine brightest here with both Byrne and Moretz tremendous throughout. Quietly making her name as one of the best comediennes in town, Byrne is the film’s trump card with another brilliant performance that’s both witty and mature, Moretz meanwhile certainly has the taste for comedy and proves again why she is so sought after and proves a great foil for the adults in the room while getting her teeth into a role that is much more than just an Efron-clone from the first film, embracing the strong feminine side to Shelby.
While it’s a film that is sure to split audiences and critics, there are lots to admire about Bad Neighbours 2: it retains its adult edge to keep older teens laughing in the aisles for sure, but this a more mature effort from Rogen and co that shows some true growth for both the filmmakers and the characters on show. And though some jokes don’t quite land, when they do it makes for a great time at the cinema – all this from a comedy sequel no less. Who knew.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Scott J. Davis is Senior Writer and Reporter for Flickering Myth. Follow him on Twitter.