For those who saw the first installment of young stoner couple versus Zac Efron’s abs, Neighbors 2 offers little more than what the original gave us. At first glance, the movie appears to follow the 22 Jump Street formula to sequels, shamelessly copying the plot line from the original while adding in a few new added gags. Buried beneath the surface, however, lies one little nugget of gold in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s continuation of this story: feminist commentary.
Typically, a “college themed” film is presented from the male perspective: it focuses on the protagonist’s struggle to be popular, party hard, and “get laid.” As a breath of fresh air, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising instead follows female leads and with this, their own separate struggles. One of the opening scenes places us in a sorority initiation where a video offering parties, friends, and "sisters for life" is played for the incoming freshmen. One of the pledges, Shelby (played by Chloe Grace Moretz), immediately feels nervous and skeptical of this social construct. Her response? Chilling out and lighting a joint to clear her mind. She then realizes that forced social interaction and dressing uncomfortably at frat parties is not the future she truly wants. Her solution is to start a sorority, promptly named Kappa Nu, with a number of girls who secretly feel the same way.
While trying to keep their sorority afloat financially, the girls incidentally infuriate protagonists Mac and Kelly (Rogen and Rose Byrne) and must fight to keep their house next door. Though not the most profound hero’s journey, the second story Neighbors 2 tells remains compelling in its own right. A couple is annoyed once again by their college neighbors, but this time the stakes are higher as they cannot sell their home until their feminist foes turn it down a bit. Even worse, they increasingly worry about exposing their current child and one on the way to a reckless college environment. Then there is Zac Efron’s character (whose name no one will remember because he’s Zac Efron): a man who slowly figures out that he will struggle to find a job and secure financial independence in the future because he partied a little too hard in college. Finally, underneath their pesky antics, the anti-heroines of Kappa Nu reveal true vulnerability and a search for self while being away from home for the first time. Sure, the story is fluffy, but the problems are real.
Neighbors 2 is a highly unnecessary film from a basic plot standpoint, but what is most forgiving about the movie is its attempt to combat the stereotypical “college” movie. Instead of presenting shallow stereotypes, much like the worst high school movies would, Seth Rogen and company gives us genuine characters with whom we can follow and sympathize. Maybe upon second viewing, a look past all the shenanigans can reveal what Seth is really trying to show us.