Whilst it’s hard to dispute its mere existence as being anything more than an entirely corporate-driven cash-in sequel, in execution Bad Neighbours 2 actually kicks off with a startlingly insightful concept: chiefly a comedic exploration of the inherent gender-bias and sexism of the Greek System of US colleges. It transpires – both in reality and on screen – that while fraternities are given carte blanche to behave as they do, their female equivalents are actually prohibited from even serving alcohol on their premises. It’s this hypocrisy which sets the stage for returning director (and now co-writer) Nicholas Stoller’s sequel, in which Chloe Grace Moritz and her friends elect to establish a sorority of their own outside of the Greek System and effect a change on behalf of the oppressed sisterhood.
Naturally, there’s a need to return to a proven formula; and predictably enough, Moritz and her compadres establish their new home (“Kappa Nu”) in the very house vacated by the previous film’s rowdy fraternity – putting them at odds with aspiring suburbanites (and second-time expectant parents) Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as they attempt to sell up and move onto greener pastures. Into this mix comes returning antagonist Zac Efron, down-trodden by his own lack of forward momentum and finding solace as mentor to the rising sorority, who must band together with his former adversaries when the girls’ ire turns inward upon him.
For all of its attempts to be anything more than a gender-inverted retreat, Bad Neighbours 2 simply can’t help itself throughout – Stoller’s screenplay continually attempting to mine something solid from its (admittedly intriguing) concept only to then throw in the towel with a reliance on whats come before. The beats are all there – a shirtless Efron, the airbag skit, the inappropriate friends – but this time serving as disappointing punchlines to a more compelling set-up. That the film ultimately resorts to the somewhat depressing statement of feminism as an unsustainable practice in fact becomes the least of its flaws, said disappointment coming about only after the fifth or sixth attempt to draw laughs from the image of a toddler with a vibrator.
To the cast’s credit, they collectively deliver as well as you’d expect on the back of a successful predecessor; Efron gets something marginally more to do this time around, while Rogen and Byrne may be going through the motions, but do so with at least marginal likeability. Moretz and her cohorts meanwhile make for intriguing foes for the established gang, bolstered by the (again) impressive set-up but sadly let down by it’s ham-fisted denouement. Literally everyone involved bar Kelsey Grammar seems woefully hobbled by the lacklustre writing at play, the former Frasier star emerging as well as he does largely by sending up his own real-life parenting woes in an all-too brief cameo.
Failing to reach the tonal consistency of the recent Horrible Bosses sequel, though admittedly more triumphant than the depressingly stale Anchorman 2; Bad Neighbours 2 falls largely by its antagonising over-reliance on repeated material at the cost of a potentially ground-breaking and insightful comedic concept. In 2016, the genre is ripe for a biting tale of the girls taking on the guys at their own game; but like How To Be Single proved a mere four months ago, the genre may be ready, but those making the comedies clearly aren’t.
Bad Neighbours 2 is in cinemas nationwide from Friday, May 6th NUMBER; rated 15. Check out the trailer below.