neighbors 2

Director: Nicholas Stoller

Genre: Comedy

Year: 2016

Ladies, throw out your copies of A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN and get to the cineplex. There’s a new great work of feminist art in town! As it turns out, you don’t have to be nuanced or passionate to wax poetic about feminism anymore. Hell, you don’t even have to be a woman! Nicholas Stoller joins the growing ranks of male directors of so-called feminist films with NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING. This film is intriguing, but not for its thoughtful commentary on gender inequality — don’t get too excited for that. The injection of an unnecessary, faux-empowering feminist theme in an otherwise perfectly serviceable comedy points to an overarching trend in modern filmmaking: if you don’t have something politically correct to say, don’t say anything at all.

neighbors 2 marketing execs

But our marketing execs said this was foolproof!

Every-girl Shelby (played by Eternally Young Chloe Grace-Moretz) finds herself disenchanted with the glitz and glamour of sorority life. Appalled by rampant sexism at frat parties and a university rule forbidding parties in sorority houses, she and a ragtag group of like-minded young ladies form their own sorority to fight for their right to party, smoke weed, and do generally un-girly things. Who better to mentor the fledgling greek organization than Zac Efron — returning as a now-burnt-out, graduated version of his frat star character from the first film. And where better for this new sorority to lay down roots than right next door to new parents Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne from the first film, desperate to survive a thirty-day escrow on their home? And so the plot unfolds.

A good sequel takes the best aspects of the original and either expands or improves on them, so let’s talk about NEIGHBORS for a moment. NEIGHBORS was not only a great comedy, it had a lot of heart. Its humor stemmed from its honesty as Rogen and Byrne struggle to transition from hard-partying young adults to responsible parents. Efron’s character learns the true meaning of brotherhood. As silly as the film was — and it was very, very silly — it never felt insincere.

neighbors 2 robert de niro

Truly the most sincere love of Robert de Niro ever put to film

NEIGHBORS 2, on the other hand, fails to understand that “political” doesn’t necessarily mean “sincere.” Not only is the sorority subplot the most color-by-numbers version of feminism ever put to film, it is constantly undercut by the rest of the film! Sure, we have Grace-Moretz and her ethnically diverse sisters having a feminist icon costume party, but we also have a moment when a female character gets roofied and makes out with a male character being played for laughs. Throwing piles of used tampons at a neighbor’s house also isn’t feminist. In fact, I sympathize with Zac Efron for being disgusted. Grace-Moretz shuts him down with “Well, if it was fake blood, you and your fraternity brothers would’ve thought it was hilarious.” No! You patently shouldn’t throw blood at people’s houses! Jesus!

Writing issues with the sorority subplot extend beyond the phoned-in nature of the jokes. The scenes in the sorority house are not constructed or written with the same care as Rogen and Efron’s scenes. The funniest parts of this film — and there are admittedly a few funny parts — all center around the male characters. They are naturally funnier because they have more complex personalities. One might write this off since these characters were in the first movie, but either way, it’s clear that this is where the writers’ focus really fell.

neighbors 2 interesting

Seriously, you tell me who the most interesting person in this picture is.

I would like to openly address Nicholas Stoller and any other filmmaker out there concerned that their movie will be lost in the sauce if it doesn’t have a political message. I want to take their little faces in my hands and whisper to them it’s going to be okay. You can make whatever movie you want. As long as it’s good, it will stand on its own. Female characters don’t have to campaign for their rights to be strong. Some of the most powerful female characters don’t call attention to their gender at all. They’re just people doing people things! Gasp!

This modern trend of lazy feminism and social commentary is getting us nowhere, and is only distracting audiences from films with real messages. Save your money this week. Spend your time elsewhere, perhaps watching something that treats women like people instead of a way to spice up an otherwise mediocre film.

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

Kate Brogden is the Television Editor at Crossfader in addition to an aspiring screenwriter with a penchant for magical realism and romantic comedies. Her proudest achievement to date is getting a friend into Disneyland without a ticket.

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