– Cecily Knobler, Live from Hollywood Reviews
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Starring Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloe Grace Moretz
In the first Neighbors (also starring Seth, Rose and Zac), a couple with a newborn must contend with the loud fraternity who moves next door in their otherwise peaceful suburb. (Actually, the FIRST Neighbors was released in 1981 and starred John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in a similar plot, sans the frat house aspect. I could go even further back and claim the first REAL Neighbors was with Jim Nabors AKA Gomer Pyle, but let’s not get ridiculous.) Anyway, Neighbors 2 is exactly the same logline except instead of a frat house full of crazy boys, it’s a sorority house full of crazy girls. Get it? It’s the same, but different!
I’m not a fan of laying out plot points or spoilers, but I will give you this gem and I’m just going to use the actors’ names instead of their character names, because really who cares? (MINOR SPOILER ALERT:) Rose vomits on Seth’s face while having sex with him in the opening scene and this is how we find out she’s pregnant with their second child. Adorable! So they decide to sell their house but while it’s in escrow, a ragtag group of girls (led by a miscast Chloe Grace Moretz) decide to move in next door. May the battles begin!
You may be wondering where Zac Efron fits into all of this! (PS, I’m a huge fan of Zac. I think he’s what would happen if Rob Lowe had a baby with a pile of Beagle puppies. That’s how pretty and soft I find him.) After college, he still hasn’t quite found his life’s purpose so when he hears the girls are trying to start their own feminist-powered, pot-smoking sorority, he offers to assist them. That’s where my plot points end.
First the good news: I laughed more than I thought I would. Zac especially has excellent comedic timing and he plays the clueless “straight-man” part so well. Kiersey Clemons, who plays one of Chloe’s partners-in-crime, is not only beautiful and funny, she’s actually a great actress. (Check her out in the movie Dope. She’s a treat!) Director Nick Stoller keeps it moving quickly and like the film’s predecessor, the soundtrack is fun and lively.
The not-so-good news is that for the 92 minute running time, you’re basically getting the same used up joke. There are gross-out moments that don’t pay off at all. Especially considering that some of them come from the girls who are, I think, trying to prove that while they can be as raunchy as the boys, they also have empathetic hearts. Ike Barinholtz as Seth’s cousin/friend (I’m never quite sure) is especially annoying and he cheapens every scene he’s in.
But of all of this said, I did still laugh which isn’t the worst thing in the world. I think of all of the actors (expect maybe Ike) deserve better than this and so does the audience. But because I laughed and because Zac’s face is so lovely, I’ll be kind and give this a grade just above average but nothing more.
Cecily Knobler is a writer, stand-up comedian and film reviewer for over 15 FM radio markets in the U.S. and Canada. Her new book Five Thousand Three Hundred Miles is available now on Amazon.
For more info, go to: www.cecilyknobler.com