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By Sarah Ward
May 06, 2016
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By Sarah Ward
May 06, 2016
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If Bad Neighbours 2 was a party instead of a film, it'd be the kind that everyone has been to at least once. You know the type: a fiesta focused not only on reliving past glories, but trying to outdo them. Going bigger mightn't always be better, yet plenty of fun — both expected and not so — can be had along the way. That's the end result here. While never the complete riot it wants to be, this comedy sequel frequently proves as hilarious as its predecessor, and has more than a few surprises up its sleeve.

The film picks up two years after 2014's Bad Neighbours. After surviving life next to a fraternity, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) just want to sell their house, move somewhere quiet and hang out with their growing family. While they're embracing adult life, former frat leader Teddy (Zac Efron) is remembering the wild antics of his college heyday a little too fondly. Enter Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein), three freshmen eager to make the most of university life, but who don't like the "super rapey" vibe of keggers, or the rule that sororities aren't allowed to throw their own parties.

It's not hard to guess where the movie is going, particularly if you've seen its predecessor. Shelby and her pals move in next door to Mac and Kelly, recruit Teddy as their mentor, and start a fresh round of neighbourly fighting for the right to party. Slapstick and gross-out gags remain in the mix, as does Efron's shirtless torso. Once again, director Nicholas Stoller tries to craft a culture-clash comedy that contemplates age and maturity, and for the most part he hits the mark.

Admittedly, it may seem as though Bad Neighbours 2 is simply trying to disguise its plot rehash by switching sexes. But there's more going on here — and we don't just mean nods to Minions, Magic Mike and Jackass. In these post-Broad City times, the idea that girls can be as irresponsible and reckless as guys isn't revolutionary. Yet the fact that the film is willing to acknowledge this – not to mention exploring issues such as consent, sexism and privilege – is certainly worth celebrating.

Accordingly, if the struggles of growing older added insight and sweetness to the first film's rampant raucousness, interrogating notions of gender, orientation, identity and equality achieves the same feat in the second instalment. Not every joke lands, and for every scene or line that manages to amusingly rework previous material, just as many seem like a stretch. But even when laughs aren't flowing, the movie is always pushing a refreshing, timely and much-needed perspective.

Perhaps that's why Bad Neighbours 2 proves both more interesting and slightly less entertaining overall. The message feels new and vital, even if not a lot else does. And while a sense of familiarity certainly assists returning cast members Rogen, Efron and the scene-stealing Byrne, newcomers Moretz, Clemons and Feldstein are rarely asked to do more than embody the film's impressive, progressive attitude.

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