UK Release Date: 6th May 2016
Runtime: 92 minutes
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Writer: Andrew J Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein
Synopsis: The arrival of a raucous new sorority house next door threatens to scupper Mac and Kelly’s plans to sell their house and start a new life.
To just about everybody’s surprise, Bad Neighbours proved to be one of the best comedy films of 2014. It was a given that the film would get a follow-up and director Nicholas Stoller has now, indeed, delivered Bad Neighbours 2. It takes the Seth Rogen school of drug-infused gross out comedy and brings it right up to date in a way that probably shouldn’t be possible. With a surprising thread of feminism running through its heart, this is a sequel that is completely and utterly unnecessary, but has been executed in a way that almost justifies its existence. Almost.
Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are planning to move into a bigger home prior to the birth of their second child. They will be able to sell their home if they can survive the 30 day “escrow” period, during which the new buyer can visit at any time. A spanner is thrown into the works when Teddy (Zac Efron) turns up next door again, with Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her hard-partying sorority. Their dedication to defying the rules and showing that women can party too threatens to put an end to their cosy suburban existence.
Bad Neighbours 2 has an interesting central conceit in that it highlights a hypocrisy within the system of fraternities and sororities that is utterly baffling to anyone outside of the American college world. The film flirts with an intriguing subtext of feminism, to which it never quite gives enough time or commitment. As a result, Chloë Grace Moretz seems somewhat shortchanged by a narrative that spends far more time with Zac Efron’s character, who still gets more screen time despite being downgraded from chief antagonist to an ally of the central couple.
The film’s strongest asset is still the undeniable chemistry between Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen. Rogen excels in a perfect depiction of how his trademark man-child stoners would act now that they’re at least ten years too old to be making jokes about drugs and dicks. Byrne is even better, flexing her considerable comedic muscles as a woman given ample room by the script to be just as silly and irresponsible as her husband. The pair mesh incredibly well together and Bad Neighbours 2 gets a surprising amount of emotional mileage from a scene in which a step too far from the sorority girls puts their relationship in peril. That’s not to say that the film is strong emotionally, struggling to find an interesting way to deal with the tired realisation of Zac Efron’s character that there’s more to life than partying.
When Bad Neighbours 2 relaxes and focuses on its comedy, it is at its best and, in many of the better moments, it comes close to the anarchic spirit of the first movie. Unfortunately, with five separate writers given credit for the screenplay, it’s a bit of a hodgepodge that lacks a clear comedic tone. Constant nods to jokes from the first movie never quite work as well as they should, particularly given that the writers seem to have convinced themselves that that airbag joke was a hundred times funnier than it actually was. At times, this comes across as a film that’s trying just a little too hard.
Comedy sequels seldom work and Bad Neighbours 2 deserves credit for its refusal to fall into many of the traps into which something like Zoolander 2 so consistently stumbled. It also deserves credit for avoiding the bloated running time that has characterised Hollywood comedy in the era of Judd Apatow, coming in as a short, sharp blast of humour that never outstays its welcome.
Pop or Poop?
It’s a broad and silly take on irresponsible parents and the inherent inequality of the college campus but, for all of its fun, Bad Neighbours 2 falls down when it tries to look deeper into its characters. The shouting and swearing is as enjoyable as ever, but the film gets a little bogged down in its take on brotherhood and doesn’t quite give enough time to a potentially interesting feminist riff.
A threequel seems all but inevitable, but it might be better to turn off the music, put away the glow sticks and bring the party to an end.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.