Bad Neighbours is the anti-Frat house, Frat House movie; and Bad Neighbours 2 (add an ellipsis and Sorority Rising and remove the Bad for its U.S release) sees the girls getting their turn at tormenting the suburbs. Shelby (Carrie herself, Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (the absolutely divine Kiersey Clemons from Dope) are just two of our primary trio of ladies that have moved in alongside the Radner’s to put their stamp on college life. College in 2016 though is painfully aware of the dark side of frat house parties. College in 2016 sees the predatory behaviours and exploitative practices that we saw from the perspective of the sweet boys Teddy and Pete, in the harsh and rapey light of day. It’s a really commendable effort from the writers, to address the elephant in the room that 80’s naivety was oblivious to.
Bad Neighbours 2 can’t quite strike the right balance for it to replicate the true charm of the original. Director Nicholas Stoller is the ring master once again, revisiting the boys from the first film, particularly Efron’s Teddy and Dave Franco’s Pete (now gay as the day is long, now being surprised with a proposal from his boyfriend). You get stuck wanting to watch the remaining boys subvert every stereotype that they built in the first film. They’re only an aside however, as Teddy’s arrested development is the gateway to the shenanigans in Bad Neighbours 2. Writing fraternity (there’s enough of them) Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg feel like they’re torn between the competing priorities of getting to know our new occupants of the house, progressing Teddy’s story and remembering to not forget the Radner’s doing more and more inappropriate stuff around their daughter (she basically has a lovely pink vibrator stand in for a barbie for the entirety of the movie).
Bad Neighbours 2 is ‘woke’ (YES! I used woke in a review) to the politically changing nature of U.S college institutional ‘turning a blind eye’. It feels like all the filmmakers are desperate to differentiate themselves from other genre entries in the genre by elevating women from grinding, drunken, willing participants to the creepier aspects of frat life. It’s a shame that Shelby’s life and family is the primary focal point for their part in the story as Moretz just doesn’t pop in comparison to her female co-stars. I would have loved to see Kiersey Clemons’ Beth on the other hand, feels like a missed opportunity. If you’ve seen her drumming, gay tomboy; she’s got the goods to mix it with the comedic players stacked up in this film. Writing Frat Delta Delta Sausage party did a surprisingly decent job creating female characters that were both disgusting (used tampon projectiles) and endearing (The Fault in Our Stars movie nights).
Rose Byrne is always terrific. With range for days in both long and short form storytelling (Damages, Two Hands) and the most consistent comedic player in writer/director Paul Fieg’s best Bridesmaids and Spy; she’s the glue that holds together the central trio. Seth Rogen’s man child may be tiresome for some, but when you add the essential ingredient of Byrne and Efron’s idiot savant (and Frat liaison) Teddy, there’s an undeniable magic. Teddy’s lack of understanding of the basics of living, contrasted with his in-depth knowledge of frat life, and just how oil, even that from a pig on a spit, is essential for your obliques to really pop; makes for yet another great comedic turn from surprise packet Efron.
Bad Neighbours 2 hits like a sledge hammer when it hits, but the contending priorities often leave it licking you like a warm breeze.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
Written by: Andrew Jay Cohen & Brendan O’Brien &
Nicholas Stoller & Seth Rogen &
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Selena Gomez, Seth Rogen, Dave Franco, Kiersey Clemons, Lisa Kudrow, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo , Abbi Jacobson
Chloë Grace Moretz … Shelby
Zac Efron … Teddy Sanders
Rose Byrne … Kelly Radner
Selena Gomez … Madison
Seth Rogen … Mac Radner
Dave Franco … Pete
Kiersey Clemons … Beth
Lisa Kudrow … Dean Carol Gladstone
Ike Barinholtz … Jimmy
Carla Gallo … Paula