If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That cliché more than aptly describes Neighbors 2, the sequel to/almost exact same movie as 2014's bizarre comedy Neighbors. The original revolved around a married couple, played by Seth Rogen (who also wrote and produced) and Rose Byrne, as they tried to find a way to stop the wild fraternity that moved next door to them. The new entry revolves around the same married couple as they try to find a way to stop the wild sorority that moves next door to them. Original ideas? Not in mainstream Hollywood!
Pretentious film student shoved aside and replaced by a guy who likes movies, Neighbors 2 is a passably fun time. A more accurate platitude to describe the film would be "if it was a little broke, get rid of the broke parts, don't fix the rest". The first Neighbors severely mishandled its story and dialogue in between all the off-kilter humor, which the sequel remedies by only containing jokes.
There's not a lot to say about an experience that's more a string of comedy set pieces than a complete movie, but there are some parts of the machine that work and some that don't- so I'll get them out of the way as efficiently as the studio released its obligatory sequel.
Yeah, Neighbors 2 is pretty funny. It boasts the exact same style of humor as the first: lovably oddball. The original struggled to restrain its weirdness by telling a story that made sense (at least), but the sequel lets its freak flag fly from the first few minutes. The opening scenes contain a character revelation that completely changes a relationship from the first film: it bursts from nowhere sensible, but that's precisely why it works well.
It's the kind of movie that has you constantly exclaiming "what!?" while you can't stop yourself from laughing. The narrative is completely replaced by a series of such moments, but Neighbors 2 is better for it. Much of the hilarity arises from sudden editing or musical cues that similarly have no buildup. It's refreshing to see director Nicholas Stoller play with alternate methods of comedy filmmaking.
All the main actors and actresses get their jobs done sufficiently (except the horrendous sorority girl minor roles. They're all bad.), but Zac Efron is the shining star. He's really developed a unique ability to convey over-the-top comedy through subtle character reactions, and he can be hilariously blatant when needed. Between him and Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys, this weekend is full of great physical comedy.
All in all though, Neighbors 2 does absolutely nothing new or memorable. You can't rehash a movie, remove all signs of story and character growth, and call it a day just because you threw new jokes into the overused pot. It's fun while it lasts and when the jokes land, but five minutes after the movie, I forgot 90% of its events.
Watch it late one night at a friend's house. Don't pay to see it in theaters.