When last we saw Teddy (Efron), he was fulfilling his destiny as one of those shirtless models outside of an Abercrombie & Fitch. But times have changed a lot more than he has, and the former god of all Greek life — while still so frighteningly ripped that his skin seems ready to split open and vomit muscles — now finds himself stuck in neutral as the rest of his friends are transitioning into their adult lives.
The classic Apatow-era tropes of arrested development are given new life by dropping Teddy into the middle of a tug-of-war between the past and the future, and the film is unusually insightful as to how generation gaps have simultaneously shrunk and gotten harsher. In "Neighbors," Teddy was a symbol of perfect youth. In "Sorority Rising," he’s lost in the limbo between adolescence and adulthood; one scene finds him sitting in a room full of girls, oblivious to the fact that everyone there is silently mocking him via text. Efron, for his part, is once again an absolute genius in this role, perfectly balancing the sweetness of a good dude with the stupidity of a regular dude. His performance epitomizes the empathy that Stoller has for all of his characters, and it’s at the heart of why this movie feels so warm and re-watchable.
“Neighbors 2” has too many characters, and some dopey set pieces that seem to have been contrived on the back of a box of rolling papers. But it also manages something tricky and laudable. Embedded among the bong hits and gross-out gags is a witty reframing of some very contemporary cultural conundrums and an unexpected poignancy, most notably in Zac Efron’s vulnerable performance as Teddy Sanders, a reluctantly evolving dudebro.
But when it’s at its best is when the movie shows the beating heart underneath Efron’s glistening pecs. Like any number of gifted actresses -- Cameron Diaz and Goldie Hawn come to mind -- Efron wields his beautiful body as a comedic instrument. He knows its power, and yet yearns to be valued in a deeper way. It’s a market the ladies have cornered for too long.
Yet “Neighbors 2” doesn’t pretend to be taking a stand for women’s — or anyone’s — rights; its identity politics are scattershot at best, and its sympathies are with everyone.
Most of all, perhaps, they’re with Teddy (Zac Efron), who returns from the first movie frozen in place, a lonely hunk unable to follow his former fraternity brothers into adulthood. Unexpectedly, Mr. Efron has developed a sweet gift for highlighting the poignancy that undergirds his studmuffin persona; the women may lust after Teddy’s body, but the movie relies mostly on his heart.
Efron, in general, continues to be a comedic delight, commodifying his body as an aphrodisiac without ever losing sight of the character or the absurdity of his own ego. But he’s also able to bring resonance to a potentially thin character, undergirding his scheming with an underpinning belief that people won’t want to be around him if he’s not an agent of chaos. It’s a testament to the tonal fluidity that these scenes can feel so genuine and be followed-up with pieces of insanely stupid physical comedy.
The most potent figure in this generational feud turns out to be the one major character who's caught between them. While his best buds have attained respectable white- and blue-collar jobs, Efron's Teddy is stuck wearing a fuzzy sweater at Abercrombie & Fitch after the store backs away from its use of shirtless models. Too old to be a mere Adonis and too dim and naïve to follow a career path, Teddy sinks into poignant desperation: All he wants is to be “of value” to someone, anyone. Shorn of the aimless aggression that made his performance in the original Neighbors such a surprise, Efron transforms Teddy into a beacon of lovable empathy, smoothing out a few of the rough patches attendant in the sequel's transition from bro-centric raunch to an open-minded take on gender equality. Neighbors 2 doesn't achieve much parity in its comedy, but the film is consistently elevated whenever Teddy is in the room, playing the social justice warrior or just learning how to hard-boil eggs.
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.
One of those celebrating bros is Teddy, and he's played, brilliantly, by Zac Efron, who has evolved not only into a terrific comedic performer but also a post-modern archetype: he is, at least in this movie, playing on two levels simultaneously, both as Teddy and as Zac Efron, gorgeous and ripped sex symbol, completely self-aware and yet completely committed to the surface performance. Thus we have him, at various times, ripping off his shirt for no reason, other than the reason we all actually know: he looks good with his shirt off and we want to see that.
Rogen and Bryne are very likable as the central couple whose pleas of quietude fall on deaf ears, Moretz is wonderfully brash as the rebellious teen hell bent on revenge while returning star Zac Efron steals the show as the dim-witted, muscle-bound Teddy who uncharacteristically finds himself on the side of the "old guys".
Zac Efron doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, but he makes the most of what he gets and is genuinely funny in every scene. His chemistry with Rogen and Byrne provides many of the film’s big laughs, as well as his interactions with his former frat bros who are getting sick of his insistence on living the same life he lived in college.
Teddy, of course, learns a lot of lessons in his time at Kappa Nu, the most salient being that frat parties’ themes always make girls play hoes. When he finally grasps this, his face contorts into the pained acknowledgment that he may have been a terrible person, and thus begins Teddy’s journey to maturity — and, later, the realization that he’s an “old” with no friends and no direction. It’s almost impossible that a human could have Efron’s abs and his comic timing, and director Nicholas Stoller definitely makes use of both, even working in a Magic Mike–worthy dance scene.
Efron’s character is surprisingly really enjoyable, and no, not for the ridiculous abs but for his ability to be totally self deprecating. Taking his shirt off at every available opportunity gets some laughs and he doesn’t come across as being a total eejit.
And it proves Zac Efron is a national treasure (in these movies).
But Rogen and Byrne — plus Zac Efron’s Abercrombie ex-frat boy — are talented enough to find new spins on their dumb characters, especially in a scene where they each take turns struggling epically to spell the word “sorority.”
Actually, “Neighbors 2” has a third excellent raison d’etre: It’s a healthy reminder that Efron is a national treasure … in these two “Neighbors” films. His Teddy is a stud who’s been out to pasture since graduation. Gone is the smirking confidence he rocked through most of the first; he spends the majority of “2” crestfallen, wimpering hysterically about his friends’ successes and his own obsolescence, exploiting the last few years he has left as six-packed eye candy. It’s hard not to feel bad for Efron, an actor of limited powers and increasingly Dorian Gray-like good looks — just as it’s hard not to find his sorrow a source of perfectly timed and delivered hilarity. Make a third one just for him.
At its heart, Bad Neighbours 2 is a comedy with enough good jokes to keep the story moving along at a quick pace. Some funny slapstick moments give Efron his most entertaining performance- “Why would it make eggs hard?” he declares as Mac boils a pan of water, “It makes pasta soft” – but it does seem to be much of the same with a little feminism thrown in.
Efron is the film’s sweet, touching core as this airheaded Adonis, equal parts calculated, clueless and puppy-dog willing — and while his journey to self-realisation lends the film its emotional heft, it must be said that his gleeful and continued participation in his own objectification is equally vital, bringing its feminist themes into a more, shall we say, immediate focus.
Bad Neighbours 2 is unmannered, and it’s essentially a series of gradually heightening comic set pieces, but it moves fast, and as Stoller’s shortest film to date, it feels packed, consistently funny and mercifully brief. What anchors it, and makes it good, is its two great performances: one from Efron, the other from Rose Byrne.
Rogen's well-established routine is clearly maturing with age, helped by the likes of Byrne, who continues to prove her worth as a comic actress. Efron's also quite funny — and when all else fails, he can remove his shirt.
Teddy, of course, learns a lot of lessons in his time at Kappa Nu, the most salient being that frat parties’ themes always make girls play 'hos. When he finally grasps this, his face contorts into the pained acknowledgment that he may have been a terrible person, and thus begins Teddy’s journey to maturity — and, later, the realization that he’s an “old” with no friends and no direction. It’s almost impossible that a human could have Efron’s abs and his comic timing, and director Nicholas Stoller definitely makes use of both, even working in a Magic Mike–worthy dance scene.
And how can we forget the hypnotizing beauty of Zac Efron, playing a hopeless, forever-frat-brother in Teddy? His job modeling at Abercrombie & Fitch goes nowhere, so he moves in with Kappa Nu as an adviser. This goes horribly, so he defects to Team Radner, which re-kindles a more mature bro-bond with Rogen’s Mac.
Teddy is a dumb, wounded animal who never wants to grow up and freaks out when his best-bud Pete asks him to move out (after getting engaged). While this is the slightest arc of all – ridiculous man-child forced to embrace responsibility – Efron’s obvious sexual manipulation provides non-stop laughs, as Teddy rises with the fury of a thousand hazing paddles.
There is at least one good storyline where Efron’s character shows some emotional growth on his way to feeling wanted. It’s a sweet performance that doesn’t quite fit the mean and idiotic tone of the rest of the film.
And then it doesn’t even stop there—Zac Efron’s chiseled frat god Teddy Sanders has also returned, now flailing through adult life and undergoing a genuine crisis when his best friend (Dave Franco) gets engaged to his boyfriend, in a scene that’s been rightfully praised for its cheerful embrace of same-sex marriage among polo shirt-wearing bros. Even as the Radners fret about selling their house, making room for a second child and not screwing up their first, Teddy’s quarter-life crisis may have the film’s strongest emotional pull, as he first tries to reclaim his college glory, eventually sides with the adults, and all the while learns, to his astonishment, that calling women “hoes” isn’t cool anymore. Efron sells Teddy as a wounded, hunky puppy, at one point explicitly depicted as Mac and Kelly’s surrogate child—albeit a child happily objectified as part of a group effort to steal the sorority’s weed supply during a tailgate.
Zac Efron (2016's "Dirty Grandpa") is quite engaging as Teddy Sanders, once the resident BMOC who, following graduation, has had a tough time finding his way in the adult world. The three-dimensional treatment of his character is appreciated; he is a nice guy overall and refreshingly accepting of all his friends, but can give as good as he gets when he feels he has been disrespected.
Rogen and his crew aren't delivering anything fresh, but in this case familiarity doesn't breed contempt, just more laughs. Efron gets his share, especially when he and Rogen go shirtless at a tailgate party. Teddy is lost in this post-college world — his career is going nowhere, his bestie (Dave Franco) has married a dude, and even the sorority girls, who think Teddy's a hottie, dump him. "You're not like us, dude, " says one. "You're an old person." Ouch. Credit Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising for leaning in closer to the characters and letting feelings show through the farce. Even when the one-liners and sight gags don't land, being in on the joke makes a difference.
Because director Nicholas Stoller is once again the maestro, he hilariously revisits the boys from the first film, particularly Zac Efron’s Teddy and Dave Franco’s Pete. Pete gets an entire side-plot regarding his gay engagement plans. The chemistry built with this group is not lost, and it’s easy to get stuck wanting to watch the remaining “brothers” balk every stereotype that they developed in the first film. These characters are only an aside however, as Teddy’s stunted adulthood is the genesis to plenty of sorority shenanigans.
Rounding out the topnotch cast is Efron, who hits every mark as the idiot savant with six-pack abs.
Neighbors 2 is a good comedy with a surprisingly great Zac Efron
Most of the time, Zac Efron isn’t a very good actor. In projects as varied as That Awkward Moment, We Are Your Friends, Dirty Grandpa, The Paperboy, and At Any Price, he’s had opportunities to play all manners of comedy, drama, and romance, and he approaches it all with the same himbo blankness. Yet something happens to Efron when he plays Teddy Sanders, the frat-boy frenemy of new parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, just as it did in the original Neighbors. Efron imbues his handsome-dope routine with such nuance that Teddy is not only funny but also touching in his sincere desire for brotherhood, in short supply postgraduation. What could have been simplistic self-parody becomes a genuinely, almost confusingly terrific performance.
It’s this quarter-life crisis that allows Efron to shine, underplaying his dimness to masterfully sell both a series of dumb-guy jokes (like a distraught, shoeless run that leaves him limping or his purely circumstantial ability to do math) and a sweetly clumsy desire to be “of value” to the people around him.
However, it is enjoyable thanks to the well-written one-liners and the comedic talents of Seth Rogen and Zac Efron.
The MVPs of this comedy sequel, which make it worth watching, are Seth Rogen and Zac Efron.
Efron’s performance as Teddy is just as effective as in the first film. Efron utilizes strong emotive work in order to make Teddy’s struggle to deal with losing his job and getting kicked out of Pete’s apartment convincing and engaging. More importantly, Efron delivers each joke, whether it involves the fact that he can calculate the profitability of weed but nothing else or when he dips his finger in boiling water, in perfect unison with the rest of this film.
Rogen and Efron continue to have strong chemistry in this sequel. Both actors make it convincing that they care about the well-being of one another and are willing to do anything to help each other. Their chemistry is most dynamic when Efron and Rogen are delivering one-liners off of each other. Each scene with them goes by far more quickly and enjoyably than any of the scenes featuring the sorority sisters.
Thankfully, the screenplay features enough well-written one-liners and both Rogen and Efron’s strong performances (considering the material) make this worth watching.
So let’s look at the half-glass-full, good news side of things. [...] Zac Efron, also back as frat party boy Teddy, is reliably game and also frequently shirtless, which means something different and possibly exciting when you’re Zac Efron.
If there’s an image that sums up the central thrust of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, it’s a shirtless, buff Teddy (Zac Efron) sitting on a lawn chair, his face wet with tears, giving the camera the saddest Bambi gaze as he confronts the reality of his own worthlessness. Asked if he’d like to help his former rivals Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) combat the loud sorority that’s moved in next door to them, Teddy’s face suddenly lights up. “Would that be ... of value to you?” he asks, plaintively. With that, Neighbors 2 confirms that its comedy lies in the crisis of the prototypical hot dude—one whose significance, shockingly, isn’t automatically taken for granted.
If Neighbors’s standout performance was the wonderfully cranky Byrne (whose character railed against the idea that she had tap out of the film’s antic warfare just because she was a new mother), Efron is the star of Neighbors 2. The director Nicholas Stoller and his five credited screenwriters (including himself, Rogen and Roger’s writing partner Evan Goldberg) tap into the tragic hilarity of the dumb, attractive marquee idol. All Teddy thinks he has to offer are his perfect abs, and he eventually turns on Shelby’s sorority when they dismiss him for being too old and level-headed. Efron plays Teddy like a Greek statue come to life and wanders the planet in search of friendship—he has no romantic subplot, no desire for money and power. He’s just afraid of becoming irrelevant while everyone else grows up around him.
Efron is buoyed by the film’s impressively deep cast.
Also, Neighbors 2 manages to make its most obvious dudebro its secret weapon. With pecs and abs that seem more like special effects, Teddy continues his state of arrested development but begins to realize he’s caught between being young enough to have his future ahead of him but being old enough to be — at least to a pack of college-age girls — kind of a lame-o buzzkill.
Efron tackles these scenes with expressive gusto, from dealing with the upcoming marriage of his best frat friend (Dave Franco) to figuring out that his “bros before hoes” world view is a wee bit sexist. And in turn, Neighbors 2 reminds everyone, in funny fashion, that it’s not a bad lesson on the whole.
When the focus happens to be on the couple (Rogen and Bryne have good comic chemistry) or the sorority’s hijinks, the movie can be pretty funny (also Efron as a doofus turns out to be the best version we’ve seen in a while).
Rogen and Efron are once again well-matched as schlubby Mac and chiseled Teddy, this time teaming up against the Kappa Nus, led by Chloë Grace Moretz in a somewhat wobbly performance as Shelby, a renegade stoner.
Outside from Rogen, we see the return of Rose Byrne and Zac Efron, who play their parts well. Though Rogen is the star of the show here, their characters are funny enough to sustain the momentum built out throughout the film to keep the film hilarious, even approaching the second half where the drama aspects of the film get a little heftier.
It’s not often one recommends Zac Efron’s acting. But there’s something about Teddy and the lines he’s given that hits Efron’s literal sweet spot. Here we find him falling behind his bros’ careers, questioning his value, and resenting Mac and Kelly for the criminal record he ended up with after the first movie.
His lifeline: Teddy lands a live-in gig mentoring the girls of Kappa Nu on how to run a sorority like a frat.
The best performance of the movie, though, is Zac Efron’s. He’s grown exponentially as a comedic actor, and Efron’s lovable doofus is always fun to watch. There’s even a bit of pathos to Teddy this time out – everyone close to him has moved on from the glory days of frat parties and taken responsibility for their lives but Teddy hasn’t. Efron could have overplayed his hand here, but Teddy is a sweet guy who means well; he just needs focus, and how Teddy finds his focus is the best arc of the movie.
That leaves Teddy, always straggling behind in a state of perpetual idleness. He just wants to feel valued, to find a place where he’s appreciated and treated with respect. Whether that’s helping the girls of Kappa Nu form their sorority or switching sides to his former frenemies when he realizes he’s now one of “the old people,” Efron continues to give Teddy a sense of warm humanity. He’s so dumb, and he’s so incomprehensibly hot, and you just want to give him a hug and tell him he’s a worthy human being.
It’s up to Efron, the best dim bulb in the business, to make up the difference. His character might be a hot-bodied loser, but he’s the movie’s MVP. Teddy can’t figure out how to feed himself. When Mac takes pity and teaches him to cook, he’s astounded by science. “Why would hot water make eggs hard when it makes pasta soft?” he asks, with deadpan sincerity.
For all its feelings, Neighbors 2 is genuinely hilarious, and (surprisingly) that’s thanks in large part to Efron: the still-figuring-out-life Teddy is the perfect combination of sadness, cluelessness and demoralization that has him bouncing from purely physical gags (like pouring burning meat grease on his chiseled abs) to more tender moments in which he quietly begs for friendship.
What made the original Neighbors appealing, other than Rose Byrne’s and Zac Efron’s comic turns (they return as scheming wife Kelly and ultimate bro Teddy), was its thoughtful look at generational conflicts. Parents Kelly and Mac (Seth Rogen) were reluctant to admit their youth was over, given their new responsibilities, while Teddy was in denial about a post-grad life he had not prepared for. Those ideas are deepened here, relatively. The adults fret about what kind of parents they are, while Teddy is stung as his peers rack up milestones. He just wants to be valued, a repeat line Efron makes funny and endearing in equal measure.
The entire cast is once again willing to go all in. But while there was a sort of hidden poignancy in Mac and Kelly’s struggles with aging out of the frat-house demographic in the first film, this time around it’s Teddy who is facing adulthood, sort of. (It’s a work in progress; he doesn’t know that boiling water is, you know, hot.) Efron manages to make his looks and physique work both ways – he’s always stripping his shirt off, but with a self-aware wink and nod. He’s an increasingly interesting actor.
The best part of “Neighbors 2” is definitely Efron. He has a real gift for comedy of the dimwitted variety, exhibiting an ability to play dumb and likable simultaneously. (It’s a skill he shares, coincidentally, with Ryan Gosling, who manages the same trick in “The Nice Guys,” also opening this week.)
Efron gets more to work with than anyone else in the cast, and he steals “Neighbors 2” with more than just his eye-popping abs. Teddy is in that weird post-college phase where he can still hang out with the kids, even though they’re starting to think he’s old. As he gradually realizes that he might be on the wrong team, his shifting loyalties provide the only character growth in the entire script.
Meanwhile, ex-fraternity guy Pete (Dave Franco) gets a marriage proposal from his boyfriend, a turn of events that makes his roomie Teddy (Zac Efron, displaying shrewd comic timing and his famous torso) less surprised that Pete is gay than shocked that, friendless, dateless and aging, he must move on with his life and find a new place to live.
It’s also a shame that “Neighbors 2” invests so much in stupid gags like people being launched into walls or through windshields when its best moments are in clever dialogue about grappling with adulthood. Mac tries to teach Teddy how to hard boil eggs. “Don’t put the eggs in there,” Teddy says of the boiling water. “It’ll melt them.”
Efron is constantly a delight, stealing every scene he’s in with perfect delivery. There are plenty of laughs in “Neighbors 2,” and they’re almost all owed to him. This sequel might have been better off showing Mac and Kelly teaching him how to complete basic household chores for an hour and a half.
They just don't get the same time commitment that Rogen, Byrne, and Efron get. Speaking of Efron, he's once again brilliant as Teddy, and it's safe to say he's finally coming into his own as a comedy star. Efron gets Teddy's simple good-hearted nature, but also his simple-minded brain. He's so sweet that you can't be mad at him for being dumb and gorgeous.
The success of this film lies a great deal on the comedic potential of both Efron and Chloe Grace Moretz. Efron plays the older frat member, now graduated and unable to find a decent job and living space while Moretz plays his younger female version looking to party all the time. Teddy Sanders (Efron) helps her at first in renting her sorority house that just happens to be next to the house that Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) is selling. But Teddy switches to Mac’s side to help him evict the sisters sorority. It is a fairly simple plot but with plenty of comedy potential, with the setups well staged. Efron has proven his mettle in comedy as in the first NEIGHBOURS and the recent DIRTY GRANDPA. Efron can even be funny in moments demanding the audience to show sympathy for his character. Teddy, for example, shows genuine puzzlement on why eggs get hard whereas pasta gets soft when dunked in boiling water,
This said, the leads have good comedic timing as well. Rogen, Byrne, and Efron play off of each other as well as they did the last time around. Efron particularly shows consistency with his budding comedic chops.
The perpetually partying “sisters” soon find themselves at war with Mac and Kelly, who—through a series of events I won’t dare spoiling here—quickly find a new ally in their former nemesis, Teddy (Zac Efron, in the film’s best and most nuanced performance). A dimwitted and directionless former Abercrombie & Fitch employee, Teddy is the heart and soul of this movie, and the primary vehicle for its feminist overtones. Sure, the women of Kappa Nu do their part to communicate the rampant sexism in society, but watching Teddy come to terms with his role in perpetuating it—and wanting to make amends for doing so—is what makes Neighbors 2 such a surprising (and oddly touching) follow-up.
But where the first movie was more about Kelly and Mac figuring out their version of maturity, the second puts that responsibility squarely on Teddy.
In the first Neighbors, Efron's Teddy was a lightning bolt of smarm with a killer smile and a rock-hard set of abs. The same holds true in Neighbors 2. But Efron's commitment to the role makes what could have been a pretty basic Peter Pan character far more vulnerable and determined than you might expect from a movie that features him distracting coeds with his junk.
Efron's Teddy plays on preconceived perceptions, both of how two-dimensional aggressive frat guys usually are in movies and of Efron's own teen dream idol status. As Fran Hoepfner wrote at the A.V. Club, Efron is "a character actor with a leading-man’s face," and he plays Teddy as more of a bizarro version of Efron himself by "leaning so far into his own persona that the result is nightmarishly effective."
And so Efron almost runs away with Neighbors 2. Teddy has Efron's steely good looks and mind-boggling physique — he's so toned that if you squeezed his pecs, his biceps would probably fly out and flex à la Johnny Bravo — but he's also deeply unhappy. When his best friend and former frat brother Pete (Franco) gets engaged, Teddy is forced to reevaluate his place in the world, and comes up empty.
Neighbors 2 is only 90 minutes long, yet has a share of lags in energy and comedy at times. In fact, it is often left to Zac Efron to really carry the load during some slow segments, which wouldn't seem promising to those who just saw him bomb in We Are Your Friends and Dirty Grandpa in recent months. Yet while returning to a familiar setting isn't ultimately a good thing for Teddy, it is perfect for Efron.
The Neighbors franchise is almost like the 21 Jump Street series, in that both are R-rated comedies that shouldn't work even once but improbably do twice. In that analogy, Efron is like Channing Tatum, as both were really coasting on looks in subpar movies until these comedies showed a truly hilarious dim bulb side of them. Yet while Tatum has gone on to show more range in other successful movies, Efron is another matter, which makes how he flips the switch back on in Neighbors 2 all the more unlikely, but all the more valuable to give him some goodwill back. Whether he loses it again in non-Neighbors films like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Baywatch is a matter for later.
Still, Moretz is just as adept at R-rated comedy, while also matching Efron in being a comedic nemesis while actually staying sympathetic at the same time.
While Efron and Moretz carry the scene stealing flag this time, they are aided by Kiersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein as Shelby's fellow sisters, all too brief returns from Jarrod Carmichael and Hannibal Buress, and little Elise and Zoey Vargas playing with a series of dressed up marital toys as Stella. Mac and Kelly are primarily helped again by even wackier couple Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo, who are slightly less over the top than last time by comparison.
The returning cast runs through the usual paces, with only Zac Efron willing to do any work for laughs. He’s given the best lines and the evolution of his character to a lost soul post-college (“I just want to be valued!”) is at least somewhat interesting.
Once again, Zac Efron saves the day. In the original, he played the president of the fraternity. Now he takes on a mentor role to the sorority, instructing them on the art of debauchery. In return they teach him the ways of feminism: “Don’t call them hos—that’s not cool anymore,” he tells his buddies. Jokes like this keep Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising just funny enough to not feel like a retread.
And in the middle of it all is its secret weapon, the former High School Musical star Efron, who at the age of 28 has proven his adaptability in a wide variety of roles, particularly comedy. As Teddy, he brings something to the part richer and fuller and much more dimensional than what was flat on the page, an ache to belong and to be “valued” that resonates beyond the script’s jokes about dope, crazy pranks and a raucous rift between crazy college kids and cranky “old people.”
Zac Efron plays rather touchingly against his ridiculous good looks, reprising his role as frat boy Teddy, who has lost his way post-college. Caught in a quarter-life crisis, he initially finds new purpose in helping Kappa Nu battle Mac and Kelly, but those surprisingly ruthless sorority sisters eventually exile him to the "lame old people" side.
They just don't get the same time commitment that Rogen, Byrne, and Efron get. Speaking of Efron, he's once again brilliant as Teddy, and it's safe to say he's finally coming into his own as a comedy star. Efron gets Teddy's simple good-hearted nature, but also his simple-minded brain. He's so sweet that you can't be mad at him for being dumb and gorgeous.
SORORITY RISING is a surprisingly good movie. Zac Efron gives one of his best performances and his comedy timing is flawless. Like so many raunchy comedies, there is sweetness at the end of the film complete with a strong moral message.
At first blush, Zac Efron has plenty of opportunities to take off his shirt and show off his famous physique. The movie really belongs to him, but not because of his body. Under his leadership, he provides the moral compass.
Right in the middle of all these ill-considered gags is Zac Efron, finding the pathos and humanity in a character whose world has passed him by. Some day he will find another script worthy of his abilities, but not until these same writers throw him through the wringer again two months from now.
Zac and Seth make one incredible comedy team. Their chemistry together is effortless. They’re able to bounce off each other, providing more laughs than you ever thought possible. Zac’s comedic timing is like fine wine — it’s only getting better with age.
And Efron is particularly effective inhabiting the role of a sad bro facing down a harsh reality. Efron still has teen dream good looks and a chiseled body worthy of a carved statue, but there’s a distance in his eyes that speaks to a well of sadness underneath his frat boy veneer. Now 28, there are questions of where he goes next — beyond next summer’s “Baywatch,” which is currently shooting — and there’s more than a little of Efron’s reality in the Teddy’s soul-searching. Don’t confuse this with an empty performance, there is a realness to Teddy that Efron brings to the surface.
The first film may have been elevated by a sweet sub-narrative but the selling point was always the young parents versus college kids premise – as well as jovial chemistry between Rogen, Byrne, and Efron (along with Dave Franco). Fortunately, the latter ingredient remains largely intact – as the three leads are equally fun in every one of their Sorority Rising scenes (whether together or separate).
Efron remains the highlight of the series – imbuing Teddy with the same child-like sincerity that made his shift from a charming (albeit overly-invested) frat boy to a biting comedy antagonist so rewarding. Teddy’s arc in Sorority Rising is equally endearing, even amidst the goofy shenanigans he’s caught in, and Efron gets a lot of mileage from self-deprecating jokes made at his own expense (as the “dumb” but “hot” guy) – with tongue-firmly-planted in his cheek. Unlike other players in Sorority Rising, Teddy actually walks away from the sequel with a bit more definition – while Efron, again, turns in a performance that proves he’s more talented than his detractors will admit.
Does the name "Zac Efron" give you bloodcurdling flashbacks to High School Musical?
Well, that's fair. But listen: the guy's trying, and Neighbors 2 takes his own persona to task. In a few short years, Efron's Teddy finds himself on the same side of the rift as Rogen. He doesn't have a job, he sleeps in his car, he burnt bridges with his only friends, and now he's the father figure to a group of girls who love him for his abs. He is old, in that he can't text quickly enough to keep up with his mentees.
Efron can play the abandoned puppy role without being cute about it. A peak Efron scene where he dances like Magic Mike is cut short by an accidental testicle flash. That's bravery. And the guy can keep up with Rogen; a passing conversation about hard-boiled egg preparation is one of the funniest bits in the movie. Hold your Disney Channel grudges, but Efron is weaponized in this movie.
The only parts of the film I found even remotely funny all involved Zac Efron’s character Teddy, who is first an advisor to the girls of Kappa Nu until they vote to dump him (by a quick texting session, of course). Then he decides to team up with the Radners in his desperate attempt to be of value in this world. Teddy is a lost soul, but at least he still has a soul, unlike all of the other characters in Neighbors 2.
The Bottom-Line? Zac Efron’s quarter-life-crisising Teddy brings some laughs, but the rest of the film and its “message” are just laughable.
Efron, then, serves to counterbalance this motif; he’s more or less the same, directionless loser he was we when last left him. Only now, his friends and peers are leaving him behind. While he wallows in the mediocrity of his failed starts, his friends have gotten jobs, are getting married, and have largely settled down. He’s a man on the verge of becoming his true self, but his obsession with the fun of his youth has hindered any real development.
In this way, Neighbors 2 plays out as an homage to the perils of growing up after reaching adulthood. Whereas the first movie relied on Efron’s fear of becoming like Rogen for its comedic well-source, this one relies on Efron’s fear of failing to become like Rogen. In a certain sense, Rogen plays the role of the mystic shaman, guiding the new generations towards their full potential whether they want to or not.
While the movie flirts with the idea of pitting the two against each other once more—which might have worked again, despite itself; they did play well as foils in Neighbors—Teddy and Mac quickly form an alliance against the sisters of Kappa Nu, albeit for different reasons. Here, Rogen and Efron become the perfect unlikely comedic team. Their chemistry is remarkable, and often the two play off each other with the effortless breeze of two long term improv partners on a familiar stage.
The movie's even-handed approach extends even to Teddy, in how oddly sympathetic it is towards his character's aimless path in life, with Efron managing to steal most of his scenes by flaunting his stupidity and abs in equal measure. When he and Rogen begin to form an unlikely father-son bond, it leads to some of the movie's funniest and most inspired moments.
Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, and Zac Efron had amazing chemistry in the first one, and once again, they have that same chemistry in this movie. Some of the best scenes in the movie are the character moments where you see the characters come together and realize that they have things in common. When these characters come together and have personal connections, the heart of the film actually comes in and it is a great aspect of the film.
That’s not to say there aren’t any funny moments, of course. Rogen’s a reliable comic talent, and Byrne’s absolutely one of the best straight men (straight people?) working today. Efron, too, does very well, as do the cast of supporting characters, many of whom return from the first film. Funny people being funny are rarely disappointing as a whole, and they deliver here. Trap Efron and Rogen in a garage and see what happens. Have Byrne get some inconvenient morning sickness. All great. Hard to screw up.
That is ultimately the problem with 'Neighbors 2'. It doesn't have anything new or original anymore. It steals jokes and story from the first film and throws in a happy, meaningless ending. Yet, if there was one thing that worked in this movie it was Zac Efron. He was a big reason the first was successful too but this movie actually uses him in a compelling way. It sets up a B story where everyone he hung out with in college is moving on with their life. Some have real jobs and others are getting married, but not Efron. He is still stuck in the past. He doesn't know how to move on and is constantly seeking others praise. This little side story made every scene he was that much more interesting and funny.
But, literally no one else gets this kind of treatment. Which made 'Neighbors 2' feel boring and redundant. It's hard to be invested about whats happening on screen when you've already seen a better version of it. Aside from solid production design, performances, and Efrons character there isn't anything new here. If you're thinking about seeing this, just watch the first one instead.
Each is fine in its own right – Efron steals the show once again – but they’re all noticeably disconnected and low on laughs, undoubtedly a symptom of the screenplay’s five – count ‘em – five different screenwriters.
Efron’s corner of the film is the most convoluted of all. Teddy’s best friend Pete (Dave Franco) gets engaged, with the happy couple immediately bouncing Teddy from his own pad. Left to do some soul-searching at his old frat house, Teddy connects with its new tenants (Shelby and company), volunteering to guide them to the top. Efron’s weird comic energy is enough to keep his scenes from feeling like an afterthought, but they’re undeniably wedged into the movie. His ultimate switch of loyalties is perfunctory at best, one of several hastily applied narrative push pins holding the project together.
The shining moment in Neighbors 2 comes from a career topping performance from Zac Efron. That’s right, I said it. Efron’s Teddy hasn’t had a good lease on life ever since graduation. The retail life has been killing him, especially since his shirtless model gig has ended in favor of having clothed models help customers. His loneliness and struggle to find a place in the world becomes the butt of so many jokes that you’ll be unable to count after a while, but Efron plays it off with such a palpable existential sadness. Like his original Neighbors performance, Efron seems born to play characters that directly criticize the alpha-male characters he usually has to play.
Tapping into the chemistry that made their first pairing so much fun, Rogen and Efron again play off each another exceedingly well and Byrne builds on her already strong reputation as one of the funniest women in film.
The newcomers and returning cast all deliver quality performances with ample standout moments and one-liners, but this film still undeniably belongs to Zac Efron. Despite the fact that he's relegated to a supporting role this time around, Efron manages to steal every single scene he's in thanks to his combination of outstanding timing and ability to perfectly skewer the "pretty boy" stereotype that's been attached to him since his High School Musical days. In addition to being absolutely hilarious, Efron adding some legitimate emotional depth to the dumb yet lovable recent college graduate Teddy Sanders by capturing the hopelessness he feels as he watches his former fraternity brothers enjoy successful careers and relationships while he continues to try to get his life together. Neighbors 2 further proves Efron's unlikely ascent to the top of the comedic actor food chain is completely justified.
I couldn’t get through this review without also mentioning Teddy, played by the delightful Zac Efron, because he remains as compelling and adorable as he was in Neighbors. He’s nuanced and complicated in a way that frat bro characters so rarely are on screen, and I could never tire of seeing him do a half-naked, oiled up striptease in one scene and burst into sentimental tears in the next. Give me ten more films starring Efron as Teddy. I’d watch ‘em all.
It’s Efron who steals the film as the adrift, oblivious dreamboat who can’t seem to let go of his glory days in college. He plays Teddy’s love of his bros and dim sincerity for fantastic comedic effect. Future filmmakers, take note: Using Efron’s beauty as the punchline is the perfect use of his skill sets.
In fact, it’s one of the best sequels in recent years, and definitely one of the best comedic sequels of all-time. It’s also Zac Efron’s best big screen work, but that doesn’t mean we should rush to forgive him for Dirty Grandpa just yet.
This self-awareness is fleetingly entertaining, but a shirtless Efron has become a cinematic inevitability – not that many audiences will be complaining. Efron’s appearances in films such as this are all part of shaking off the squeaky-clean image he acquired during his High School Musical days, and you can’t really blame him. He remains an interesting actor with plenty of potential, and his hair must surely be a gift from the gods, but with a re-hashed script like Bad Neighbours 2, he has little to work with.
It might have worked if everyone involved had maybe cared a little more (Efron, at least, commits) and/or tied everything together, but instead, we get dangling ball sacks and breech baby feet, pointless Holocaust jokes and the declaration that throwing bloody tampons is both funny and empowering.
Zac Efron – also returning as the beautiful but dumb frat boy Teddy – works hard, offering himself up as a beefcake fantasy. But he's been playing this part an awful lot lately, and Rogen's heh-heh-heh stoner act is about as fresh as last night's bong water.
Efron spends much of the movie taking his shirt off and flexing, usually for alleged comedic effect. Efron’s a gamer, but he’s a long way from making a Channing Tatum-like transition from Sculpted Male Sex Object to Actor to Be Reckoned With.