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Seth Rogen has a surprisingly progressive comedy sequel hit in “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”

neighbors 2
I’m fairly certain that no one was calling for a sequel to the comedy hit Neighbors. That being said, I think that Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is probably better than anyone could have expected it to be. Opening this week, the film is a surprising triumph, a comedy sequel that might even be better than the original. At the very least, it stands tall among comedy sequels, which more or less is a cinematic wasteland, quality wise. It’s also a surprisingly progressive film, which really makes it stand apart. Seth Rogen and his cohorts will likely have another big hit on their hands, and deservedly so.

The movie is, obviously, a sequel to Neighbors. We once again see Mac Radner (Rogen) and his wife Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) fighting with a Greek organization that’s taken up residence next door to their home. This time though, it’s a sorority, one started by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) to counteract the sexist nature of fraternities. It’s an honorable goal, but for Mac and Kelly, their parties threaten the sale of their house, so they’ve got to go. Lucky strikes when it turns out that the girls’ mentor is none other than Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), so when they cast him aside, the couple enlist him to help win the day. Nicholas Stoller again directs, with original writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien returning to co-author with Rogen, Stoller, and Evan Goldberg. The supporting cast here, besides those mentioned, includes the likes of Dave Franco, Selena Gomez, Kiersey Clemons, Lisa Kudrow, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Beanie Feldstein, Jerrod Carmichael, Kelsey Grammer, and many more.

I found this to be one of the better comedy sequels ever, frankly. To be fair, that’s not too high a bar to clear, but still. What sets it apart, besides the genuine comedic chemistry that Byrne, Efron, and Rogen share, is the progressive streak that Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising has. This is a comedy that’s enlightened about gender equality, same sex marriage, and a fair amount of other issues that could be mined for cheap laughs. This isn’t merely a gender swap sequel, it’s a legitimate look at how unfairly girls are treated by colleges and the Greek system especially. It comes as a surprise, to be sure, but it’s a rather pleasant surprise all the same.

Seth Rogen Visits New.Music.Live. at Bell Media Headquarters in Toronto on May 27 2013

Here’s a bit from a spotlight piece I did on Rogen a few years back, slightly edited:

“By and large, his best films often are broad comedies (like Neighbors and this week’s release Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), with Rogen being a likable oaf. He’s a rare leading man who doesn’t look like a leading man. Sometimes, like in Knocked Up or Zack and Miri Make a Porno, that works for the narrative itself, increasing the effectiveness of the films. He’s like a big teddy bear, so you want to like his characters, plain and simple. He’s been able to subvert that here and there in more offbeat works like Observe and Report, but for the most part he’s the guy you want to love in his projects.

On the flip side though, Rogen has from time to time gone towards more dramatic parts, and he’s done quite well there too, I might add. The best example of that is Take this Waltz, where he’s amusing but very much a dramatic character, and a romantic one too, at that. He was Oscar nomination worthy there, as were many elements of that sadly ignored film. The same goes for his supporting turn in the dramedy 50/50, where he was ignored by the precursors as well. He was also quite good in another dramedy, Apatow’s Funny People, so he’s got more going on than some realize. Honestly, he was also snubbed for Steve Jobs, which was a tremendous turn for him as well”

This weekend, audiences who dug Neighbors and made it a smash hit will get a chance to revisit these characters when Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising opens. They can reasonably expect another laugh riot, but as a bonus, they’re also getting an enlightened comedy as well. That doesn’t suddenly make this an awards contender or anything and it mainly functions as something meant for Efron and/or Rogen fans, but it’s a unique bit of icing on the cake. Especially if you’re usually burned by comedy sequels, this is a breath of fresh air. Give it a look and I’m sure you’ll feel the same…

Be sure to check out Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, in theaters everywhere this Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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