Monday, 9 May 2016

Film Review: Bad Neighbours 2 - Sorority Rising

There’s a new war next door - Seth Rogen’s Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising bucks the trend of shitty comedy sequels.

Anyone who has spent five minutes watching a Seth Rogen comedy knows what to expect; 90% of the jokes concern themselves with weed, dicks, racial and religious stereotypes and all manner of crude stuff and touchy topics. It’s this same emotional maturity that audiences can expect by the shovel full in Bad Neighbours 2.

This sequel picks up Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) as they prepare to move to a leafier, cleaner house in the suburbs. They’ve sold their existing home, but it’s currently in escrow – meaning that the buyers have 30 days to decide whether they 100% want the house or not. In the meantime, the couple have no choice but to hope that nothing goes wrong – but inevitably something does when an oestrogen-fuelled sorority lead by teen tearaway Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) moves in next door. All-out war erupts as Mac and Kelly strive to shut down Shelby’s wild parties – and this time, they have their old nemesis Teddy (Zac Efron) to help them out.

Rogen and co. have literally made no effort to reinvent themselves as purveyors of high-brow comedy with this sequel; right from the first scene, where Byrne mistakenly vomits into Rogen’s face whilst they’re having sex, you know what kind of juvenile humour to expect. The film is so low-brow that it practically drags along the ground, scooping up all manner of filth along the way. It’s also a carbon copy of the first film and the plot follows the exact same formula, beat for beat. The entertaining game of pranks and one-upmanship is still good for a laugh, but it’s just a touch less funny the second time around.

Byrne is once again the star of the show, and I would gladly sit through another six entries in this series if it meant witnessing more of her wonderful dynamic with Rogen. Coupled with her roles in Spy, Bridesmaids and This is Where I Leave You, Byrne continues to prove how much of an under-appreciated comedy talent she really is.

Efron’s budding comedic chops continue to develop here, and even though he spends roughly 60% of the film shirtless, his rowdy dudebro character now finds himself underscored by a surprising degree of sincerity. Struggling to find his footing after college, Teddy’s quarter-life crisis gives the film a solid emotional anchor amongst the rapidly escalating war of wits between Kappa Nu and the ‘oldies’ next door. Without a roof over his head and an even keel in his career, Teddy’s tragic first steps into adulthood provide some genuine depth and weight to the film – a stunning reversal from Efron’s recent misfires, We Are Your Friends and Dirty Grandpa.

Bad Neighbours 2 does make an honest attempt at imparting some sweet morals about sisterhood and parenthood, but there are just one too many date rape jokes dotted in-between for the screenplay to feel wholly sincere and tonally consistent. Don’t get me wrong, I like to think that I have a pretty high threshold for dark humour, but the constant gags concerning roofies and Bill Cosby left a poor taste in my mouth, especially when the central message of having respect for yourself and not objectifying women is such a powerful and necessary one.

The Verdict: 6.5/10

All told, Bad Neighbours 2 successfully retains the wickedness of the first film without totally jumping the shark. The formula doesn’t feel as fresh, but the hilarious cast does enough to keep this comedy sequel from joining Zoolander 2 and Ride Along 2 on the 2016 scrap heap.

Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising is in cinemas across Australia now

This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.

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