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‘Neighbors 2’: A Rare Sequel That Scores

As sequels go, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is pretty funny. It reunites the entire team responsible for the 2014 comedy hit, right down to the little girl who plays Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne’s daughter. Writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien (along with Rogen, longtime partner Evan Goldberg, and director Nicholas Stoller) have devised a logical and sure-fire premise for this follow-up: Rogen and Byrne are waiting out a 30-day escrow period to sell their house, but a feisty group of feminist sorority girls move in next door and threaten to torpedo the sale.

There are surprisingly serious undercurrents to the comedy: Chloë Grace Moretz and two other girls feel alienated being away from home for the first time and are frustrated that sororities aren’t allowed to throw parties (unlike their male counterparts).

Meanwhile, former frat boy Zac Efron (who led the ruckus in the first movie) is at loose ends. His college pals have moved on to serious careers while he’s still eking out a living as a model at a store where he’s now considered old.

Fortunately, Neighbors 2 never takes itself too seriously, but it benefits from keeping one foot in reality while the other foot goes flying in all directions. Sight gags and farce are just two weapons in its arsenal, and most of these comic devices deliver the intended laughs.

Chloë Grace Moretz-Zac Efron-680

Photo by Universal Studios – Courtesy of Universal Studios

Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, and other supporting players all have a chance to shine, and an unexpected appearance by a first-rate comedic actor scores an absolute bull’s-eye.

But it’s the likability—and relatability—of Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne that makes the film so solid. Moretz is equally believable, and appealing.  Like any sequel, Neighbors 2 lacks the freshness of the original, but manages to deliver what viewers will expect.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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