Quoth the motion picture Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising in the year of our lord 2016:
Character One: Men’s rights!
Character Two: No. Fuck you.
Between this film and the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot (reminder: Paul Feig movies make for shitty trailers), the summer of 2016 is looking like it might be a really good one for comedies that aren’t sexist as shit. (Of course, there’s still Netflix repping the Adam Sandler ouevre with The Do-Over. Paula Patton, why?!) Behold: A movie about a college sorority that’s sex-positive without being exploitative.
In this follow-up to the enormously funny 2014 comedy Neighbors, new parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) Radler, now with another bun in the oven in addition to toddler daughter Stella, are looking to move out of their starter home and into a suburban subdivision paradise. Only one problem: The buyers of their current home (Abbi Jacobson and Veep’s Sam Richardson) have 30 days to back out of the deal if anything should happen that would change their mind about the house. Anything like, say, a sorority setting up camp next door, in the house previously inhabited by the raucous fraternity Delta Psi Beta.
This new sorority is led by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), who with friends Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) are compelled to create their own slice o’ collegiate heaven after discovering that sororities aren’t allowed to host their own parties. (That’s true.) As an alternative to “super rapey” frat parties (the one we see features a prominently placed “no means yes” sign), Kappa Nu parties lean less towards roofies an wet t-shirts, more towards pot and hoodies. The sorority’s Yoda is ex-frat leader Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), who finds himself stuck in the past as all his former bros move on to adulthood. Mac and Kelly, less than thrilled, rat Shelby out to her father; their cunning plan fails, and war is on.
“War,” in this case, consists of much the same sort of thing we saw in the first Neighbors, if scaled up somewhat (ie, a weed heist during a tailgating party). Sorority Rising’s main flaw is just how similar it is to the original; aside from the whole feminist bent, there’s nothing about it that feels particularly fresh. There are dildo gags, pot gags, and the requisite airbag fight callbacks. But fuck it, it’s funny. Remember how novel it felt, back in 2014, that Kelly was a wife in an R-rated comedy who was allowed to be gross and irresponsible and funny, instead of being relegated to the role of straightwoman tsk-tsking her manbaby husband shenanigans? (Cough cough, Apatow.) Take that and expand it to the whole movie, here.
There’s a scene where the members of Kappu Nu pelt the Radner’s home with used tampons. Teddy, impressed at their ingenuity, asks them where they got all the fake blood.
It’s beautiful. This movie is beautiful. It tackles period stigma, sex shaming (“When a boy gets laid, that’s awesome. When a girl gets laid, that’s bad”), and society’s tendency to pit women against one another (
Demi Lovato [EDIT: Selena Gomez. Look, I’m over 30.], who has a cameo as the head of another sorority, could easily have been turned into a bimbo Mean Girls stereotype, but she’s not), all without being preachy. It’s positive and affirmational without being schmaltzy. Though it’s not a perfect film (the ending, in particular, fizzles something major), it does—and I pause before writing this, because I realize it’s a major thing to say, but I stand by it—deserve a spot on your DVD shelf alongside Clueless.