Sunday, 15 May 2016

BAD NEIGHBOURS 2 review

After the events of the first film, Mac and Kelly Radner are expecting another baby and are planning on selling up and moving to a bigger house. Unfortunately for them, a sorority has just moved in next door and are being guided by Zac Efron's Teddy in the ways of partying and college life.


At first Bad Neighbours 2 (or Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising if you're in the US) appears to be following the dog-eared sequel handbook, swapping out a fraternity for a sorority for a simple re-tread of the first film. However, there's surprisingly more to it than that, offering up some timely social commentary on top of the usual wild college antics. 

When Chloe Grace Moretz's Shelby arrives at college, she is horrified to learn that fraternities are allowed to party as much as they want, but due to some outdated rules, sororities are not. Seeing an opportunity to restore the balance, she launches Kappa Nu; a sorority where these smart young women can throw parties without having to look out for potential dangers. Their demands are simple; to be treated in exactly the same manner as the fraternities.

The fact that this is a real thing and sororities are treated differently than fraternities is disgustingly unfair and undeniably sexist, and the early scenes of frat boy antics are shown to be pitiful displays of masculinity and bravado, essentially everything that is wrong with the outmoded fraternity system in America. It's this cause that should be the driving force of the film, although it quickly reveals itself to have a mixed message at best.

Described as progressive feminism by some outlets, the omni-presence of Zac Efron's Teddy within the sorority house betrays that somewhat. The sorority can't get off the ground without the help of Teddy, and it's not his maturity that sets him apart; it's his overt maleness. Without him they have some particularly stupid ideas to make money, including an elaborate drug scam that would lead to some serious jail time in reality, not to mention some repercussions at street level.

And therein lies the films biggest issue. It's less about female empowerment than it is weed empowerment. In college campus classic Revenge of the Nerds, the aforementioned nerds raise money for their fraternity by hiding photos of topless women under a whipped cream pie. In this film the sorority copy that idea, but in order to hide the weed they are selling. Rogen is a well known advocate for marijuana use, and it's clear that of the different ideals this film is pushing for, that one is closest to his heart.

Among the highlights of the film is the relationship between Rose Byrne's Kelly and Seth Rogen's Mac. They spend a large portion of the film questioning whether or not they are good parents, and to their credit, they know they're a mixed bag. Yes, daddy may leave a collection of bongs around the house, but at least he knows that living next to a sorority is not ideal living arrangements for a family with a second baby on the way. Daughter Stella spends most of the film completely uninterested in the farce her parents are contributing to, but pops up in key scenes to remind Mac and Kelly of what they're fighting for, and providing the best running gag in the film by clutching her mother's permanently buzzing vibrator as if it is a doll.

All in all, there's plenty good, memorable gags that make this a successful sequel that manages to not be a complete do-over, surpassing expectations and improving on the original. Moretz et al make for more compelling antagonists than the party boys of the first film, and despite struggling to find what storyline it should be focusing on, Bad Neighbours 2 is able to tie the enough threads together by the finale to make sure the aims of the sorority don't fall completely flat.

Verdict
3.5/5

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