There's a scene in a film class in Scream 2 where the college kids (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Joshua Jackson, practically AARP members now!) start arguing over sequels. As in, name one that's better than the original. Aliens, T-2, just about every title gets shot down. Finally, a student says he's got one: The Godfather: Part II.
Well, add Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising to that rarefied list. Taking off from the 2014 goofball original - about a couple terrorized by the frat brothers next door - Neighbors 2 brings back most of the principals from the first movie, and then amps up the conflict by introducing a renegade band of college sisters.
Led by the earnest stoner Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), the freshmen of Kappa Nu establish their new sorority after being informed by the president of Phi Lambda (a cameo-ing Selena Gomez) that traditional sororities can't throw parties - the fraternities handle that. But one tour of a frat bash - the ogling drunk dudes, the "No Means Yes" signs - and Shelby and her friends want out.
Finding a house the girls can afford proves a major challenge, but then the ripped narcisssist nemesis of Neighbors, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron, who's hysterical), offers to "mentor" the young women. He helps them figure out how to raise enough money to pay the rent, and soon enough, the screaming swarm are throwing down.
There's a feminist icon party (Hillary, Oprah, Joan of Arc), there's a troop of sisters dressed as Minions, there's music through the night. And weed. Lots of weed.
And across the way, poor Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) toss and turn, unable to sleep. The couple, with their toddler, Stella, were on the brink of moving - they have an agreement of sale, but when the prospective owners come over and catch the chaos and cacophony next door, the deal is sure to fall apart.
Directed, like the first, by Nicholas Stoller, Neighbors 2 is rooted in the sweet irony that a guy played by Rogen - the shaggy doofus of a decade's worth of smart/dumb stoner comedies - is now one of the "the old people," as Shelby puts it.
Let's face it, Mac and Kelly are grownups, with a child to worry about, with bills to pay - and even if they don't really understand what escrow is and have to toss their bongs out the window when the real estate agent shows up, the responsibilities of adult life are real.
And the irresponsible teenagers next door - something has to be done to get rid of them.
So begins an epic battle, involving everything from bed bugs to hacking i–Phones to a desperate drug heist and acts of crazy vengeance. Alliances falter, alternative uses for feminine hygiene products are introduced - things get ugly.
But beneath the screwball hijinks, more serious probing into the nature of modern male and female relationships, male and female expectations, about friendship and wedship (and gay marriage), about parenting is pursued.
And Rogen and Efron's characters find a novel new use for automobile airbags, too. These guys are geniuses.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Three starts (Out of four stars)
Directed by Nicholas Stoller. With Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Chloë Grace Moretz, Zac Efron, Kiersey Clemons, and Dave Franco. Distributed by Universal Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 mins.
Parent's guide: R (profanity, drugs, nudity, sex, comic violence, adult themes).