The original Bad Neighbours was a surprise summer hit back in 2014. It was the story of young couple Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) who were living quietly in the suburbs with their baby girl when their world is turned upside down after a college fraternity moves in next door. The frat is run by Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), and tensions rise as the lads' constant partying destroys their neighbours' peaceful lifestyle. Cue a battle of wills that sees an escalating parade of pranks and acts of sabotage. Many laughs were had from those of us in the audience.
Cut to a few years later, and Bad Neighbours 2 (known in the US as Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) sees the Radners with a second baby on the way and moving to a bigger house in a quieter neightbourhood. They've sold their house but it's in escrow for a months – meaning that the new buyers can back out at any stage. So, of course, another bunch of bad neighbours moves in to the former frat house next door – this time led by dope-smoking party girl Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz). She's a college freshman and was not happy that while frats can host parties, sororities cannot, so she and her dorm buddies decide to set up their own, Kappa Nu – with a little bit of help from Teddy, who unlike most of his frat brothers, still hasn't grown up.
Comedy loves conflict, and a staple of the genre is the generation gap. It's used to full effect here, with the sorority girls constantly dissing the "old" people next door (who are in their 30s) – and even Teddy, who is not all that much older than them (but they put up with him becaause he's hot and pretty). So far, so conventional. Where this sequel stands apart from its predecessor, ,and from most other frat-boy comedies, is in its treatment of women. It sets its stall early, when Shelby and her dorm friends Beth and Nora (Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein) got to a frat party and are disgusted by the sexism on show, and the fact that the girls there are considered as nothing more than sexual conquests for the guys. It's refreshing to see a movie have college frat party seen through different eyes. It's timely and topical and smartly done – when was the last time we saw such a staunchly feminist college comedy? Its attitude to homosexuality is also surprisingly progressive for a mainstream Hollywood comedy. A subplot that involve's Teddy's frat buddy Pete (Dave Franco) planning to marry his boyfriend is handled so matter-of-factly that it's barely even an issue. You have to hand it to returning director Nick Stoller and the writers for having a real sense of what's going on in the world today in regards to gender and equality issues – and having fun with them while also making some relevant points.
As with the first film, there are no real "villains" in Bad Neighbours 2. Shelby and her sorority pals are being thoughtless and selfish, yes, but they are not evil – they're just kids being kids. Although they do possibly take things a little bit too far when they start pelting the Radners' house with "used" tampons. Yes, much like the first film, the sequel is also filled with gross-out gags, inappropriate sexual references (toddlers really should not be playing with dildos) and plenty of drug use. Comedy sequels rarely manage to recapture the magic of the original film, but Bad Neighbours 2 succeeds where other fail – in spades. The laughs are plentiful, and the cast is engaging and charismatic (particularly a lovely cameo from the actor playing Shelby's dad). And as with the first film, the best thing about Bad Neighbours 2 is Rose Byrne. But then, I'm biased.