NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING (2016, Nicholas Stoller)
You’d think a hastily-produced sequel to a raunchy frat comedy, credited to five different screenwriters and featuring an actress named “Awkwafina,” would be a disaster. What a pleasant surprise, then, that it’s a tight, gleefully inspired riot, perhaps even better than the first outing. Stoller’s energy is getting snappier with each movie he does (THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT and FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL had sagging problems), the high-point here being the raucous Tailgate sequence complete with an astoundingly hilarious shot of a half-naked Seth Rogen emerging from a cloud to race towards us in slow-motion set to Beastie Boys’s “Sabotage.” Or the shot of Zac Efron (an ever-improving comic talent) also running towards us in slo-mo while crying into the night. With no digressions and no efforts at superfluous character background and/or developments, the 92-minute NEIGHBORS 2 is just nonstop comic intensity.
Its overarching theme about female empowerment and the inherent sexism of both college institutions and raunchy movie comedies themselves is astute and given the proper context. The film is somehow both broad and nuanced, featuring great moments like Rose Byrne’s perfect reaction shot when Chloë Grace Moretz says “The mom is right!” And supporting players like Dave Franco and Ike Barinholtz do great work without being given too much overindulgence (the way they might be in a flabbier picture by the likes of Judd Apatow). Bottom line: this is really, really funny and happens to nail universal fears of parenting, growing up, going to college, being married, and facing the real world.