HOW MUCH you enjoy Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising depends on how much leeway you give it for having its heart in the right place—even when its brain is slightly addled, and even when it's constrained by the limitations of its format.
Neighbors 2 is a hell of an effort, see, to do something meaningful with an inherently soulless vessel—the studio-mandated comedy sequel, in which anything successful gets another chapter, whether it needs one or not. In this case it's Neighbors, which sort of felt like a marketing plan in search of a story to begin with.
The sequel apparently grew out of another elevator pitch—what if instead of a fraternity moving next door to a Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, it was a sorority!—only in so doing, something kind of magical happened. Rogen and his four male co-writers had to try to see the college Greek system from a female perspective—and apparently, they didn't like what they saw.
Their protagonist, prospective sorority girl Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), finds out that, unlike fraternities, sororities can't throw parties at their own houses. Which leads to a scene where, following your typical "dress like sluts and get fucked up"-themed frat party, Shelby tries to explain why she doesn't like frat parties. She does this to former fratboy Zac Efron, who only remembers how much fun everyone was having. Then Efron starts listing off themes: "Pimps and Hoes... CEOS and Corporate Hoes... Boise Boys and Ida-Hoes... oh God, I see your point!"
The scene is funny, insightful, and, to be honest, it probably hits home for a lot of guys in my generation. Even better than Efron's (and by extension, an entire generation's) mea culpa is the way it's framed around the impending birth of the second daughter of Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne). Neighbors 2 isn't a movie made by five guys telling us what ladies want—it's five guys struggling with the question of what kind of world they want to raise their daughters in. As far as studio-mandated comedy sequels go, that's big.
Thing is, Neighbors 2 is still a studio-mandated comedy sequel. It was created on a tight schedule and feels sloppy and hastily made. It introduces big ideas, only to resort to convoluted montages. It throws in gross-out gags whenever it runs out of jokes. It bends over backwards trying to find an excuse to redo bits that weren't that funny the first time. (The airbag? Again? Fuck.) So the finished product ends up being slightly mediocre, even if you want to give it credit for more. Because they actually tried this time! I'd love to see this effort applied to something that's not a rushed, unnecessary sequel.