Bad Neighbours 2 – Review (*** 1/2)

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A rare comedy sequel that wears its own sense of redundancy on its sleeve and focuses on fashioning hearty laughs rather than ropey justifications for its own existence, Bad Neighbours 2 is a good deal more entertaining than it has any right to be.

Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) are expecting their second child, and with a 30-day escrow period ticking down before they can move into their new home, they’re troubled by a party sorority, Kappa Nu, who have moved in next door. Led by chaotic outcast Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Kappa Nu refuse to be reasonable, and so Mac and Kelly ultimately enlist the help of their former foe, Teddy (Zac Efron), to help bring them down.

Despite being scripted by a committee of talents including director Nicholas Stoller, Rogen, his frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg and the original movie’s two writers, Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, this follow-up has an unexpectedly cohesive feel. It makes the minimal effort to convince you why it absolutely should exist, quickly establishing a novel female subversion of the first movie’s conceit, before making good with all the bad-taste gags you can cram into a 92-minute movie.

Pretty much matching the original beat-for-beat thanks to a consistent gag rate, what in a way makes this an improvement over the original is its unexpected examination of the sexism facing young women, both in the university environment and otherwise, alongside the general absurdity of arbitrary gender roles.

The commentary is at turns effective and hilarious, as it never overpowers the desire to entertain, but merely gives the film a unique flavour and surprisingly solid message amid all the crude gags. Moretz, playing rather against type here, is entirely believable as the college freshman, in part because she’s actually age-appropriate for the role, in turn combining the nervy insecurity of youth with the requisite bone-headed behaviour.

She’s never quite a stereotype, though, and as the movie aptly appreciates, she’s a smart and thoughtful young woman when you take the drink, drugs and debauchery away.

As for the usual suspects, they land the beats you expect, with Efron again reminding that he really needs to bust his dramatic chops on more ambitious material in the future. As it stands, though, this potentially lifeless follow-up is a worthy sequel that’s at-once sweet and demented.

*** 1/2

Bad Neighbours 2 is in UK cinemas now and US cinemas May 20th


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