In Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, grown men plot an Ocean's Eleven-worthy heist to pilfer marijuana from teenage girls, those same teenage girls bemoan the rapey state of America's Greek-life system, a man in a clown costume bastes Zac Efron in brisket juice, and a married couple answers the question, "What happens when you experience morning sickness during sex?"
Neighbors 2 is a miracle.
Comedy sequels rarely work. They either repurpose every gag from the first movie (The Hangover Part II, Airplane II) or diverge too far from the original's successful formula (remember Evan Almighty?). Neighbors 2 is equal proportions callbacks and ante-upping, a large-scale sitcom that imagines how two real-time years would totally transform its characters.
Seth Rogen and director Nicholas Stoller's movie sags hard when it goes back to the well -- let's break up another college party! -- but when it's investigating relationships, friendships, and America's wack social structure, it's hilarious and poignant. Never before has pelting a married man with used tampons had such an impact. Neighbors is rated R for "going there."
But is it for you? Ask yourself some tough questions.
Have you seen the first Neighbors?
There's a good chance you have. The 2014 comedy grossed over $150 million at the US box office, a huge take for a comedy that isn't stuffed with anthropomorphic animals or mumbling yellow blobs. Your memories of the original Neighbors will come in handy for round two: Rogen and Rose Byrne return as the bumbling married couple Mac and Kelly, and they're still figuring out parenting (is it OK for daughter Stella to dress up mommy's vibrator in doll clothes?) even as they're expecting their second child.
Zac Efron's Teddy, the adversary from the first movie, is now a wayward post-grad kicked to the curb by his former best bro, Pete (Dave Franco), who is now engaged to his boyfriend. Without anywhere to go -- and with a criminal record from all the destructive debauchery from the first movie -- Teddy turns to his old frat house, now owned by an independent, don't-give-a-fuck sorority.
Neighbors 2 is a riot, and if you drank the first movie's vodka-spiked Kool-Aid, you'll love how Rogen and his team evolve the characters instead of regurgitating jokes.
Did you survive Greek life?
Neighbors 2 divides its time evenly between its stars, Rogen, Byrne, and Efron, and the new kids in town. Kick-Ass actress Chloë Grace Moretz plays Shelby, a freshman who rallies a raucous-yet-dignified band of young ladies to break away from the institution (i.e., roofie-heavy frat keggers) and throw their own parties. Which they can't legally do. Seriously: the National Panhellenic Conference, which lords over the country’s 26 major sororities, prohibits sororities from throwing events where alcohol is served. Frats aren't held to the same standard. Neighbors 2 goes deep on modern Greek life, adding a little twist to the old-versus-new dynamic replicated from the first movie.
Are you a Seth Rogen fan?
This is still a Seth Rogen movie to its core. At 34, the scruffy comic writer-actor covers familiar ground: weed jokes, bodily fluid jokes, fat-guy jokes, and pop-culture references galore. There are also parenting jokes, social-norm jokes, and escrow jokes -- and if you're unfamiliar with escrow, welcome to the punch line.
More than any of Rogen's man-children-on-an-adventure comedies, Neighbors 2 is about growing up and drifting away, a millennial-woes episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Don't go in expecting a guffawing pothead from Pineapple Express. This is a self-conscious Rogen, one who spent time on his press tour apologizing for Superbad's "blatantly homophobic" jokes, and it gives the comedy more bite.
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.
Does the idea of pregnancy freak you out?
If you think committed relationships are tough, wait until a comedy forces you to consider the gambles of procreation and child-rearing. Byrne is the real trooper of Neighbors 2 -- she drops more F-bombs than Rogen, pummels her way through crowds of sorority sisters, and suffers through the hormonal mayhem of faux pregnancy, all while hauling around a baby-sized pouch on her stomach. (Take that, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant.)
Somehow, for all Neighbors 2's poop talk and bad-parent meltdowns, Byrne avoids the single sickest moment in the movie, a sight that may scar anyone considering pregnancy -- a baby leg... dangling out of a... well, you need see it.
Are you a Men's Rights Activist?
See yourself out -- this one's not for you. Neighbors 2 is unabashedly pro-lady, and emasculates its male characters to make a point. So much has happened to these characters, and the comedic landscape, in the years since the first Neighbors.
Mac used to know how to infiltrate a brotastic frat party; he was a dude who could guzzle beer and operate when the kush hits. Easy. But when he needs to launch a vibe-killing campaign against Moretz and her girls -- a wild bunch played by Kiersey Clemons (Dope), Beanie Feldstein (aka Jonah Hill's sister), and Awkwafina, the Asian-American answer to James Franco in Spring Breakers -- he falters. What do you say to girls who have dress-down parties and hit bongs while watching The Fault in Our Stars? Even Byrne's Kelly struggles to come up with answers. Mac and Kelly are sympathetic -- they have daughters, dammit!
The struggle is real, and when played for biting, borderline woke laughs in Neighbors 2, the talking points feel a hell of a lot fresher than anything involving three dudes with hangovers.
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