The first Bad Neighbours, the story of a young married couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) feuding with the frat house next door, was a comedy with a handful of great jokes and strong need of an edit. Since it took those few good jokes and made $270 million worldwide on an $18 million budget, it would have been perfectly reasonable for a sequel to simply rehash the same story with a few punchlines moved around. Credit, then, to the filmmakers for actually trying to take this follow-up down a different path.
That same couple, now with a toddler and another child on the way, are preparing to sell their home. As long as the buyers don’t discover anything bad about the property in the next 30 days, everything will be fine. Right on cue, a sorority moves into the ex-frat house and starts a nightly series of loud parties. So it’s just the same plot with a new gender, right? Not quite.
The girls who move in, led by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), aren’t simply looking for a good time. They’ve had enough of the “rapey” mood of frat parties and want to establish a place where girls don’t just get to be the ho to some guy’s bro. Annoying the neighbours isn’t their sole goal – it’s a side effect of trying to beat the boys at their own game. There’s an actual point to what’s happening, which the first film lacked. It’s about growing up. For the girls, it’s about learning how to transition to adulthood. For the marrieds, it’s about accepting impending middle age. For Zac Efron, who returns as former frat boy Teddy and rarely remembers to bring his shirt, it’s about the existential terror of kids now thinking you’re one of the grown-ups. A ‘message’ is far from the most important element of a comedy, but it stops it feeling as scattershot and aimless as its predecessor.
Again, the film could use some chopping. There are too many scenes that have the awkward stumbling of improvisation filling the gaps where written jokes should be. However, it’s a smarter, more mature film than last time, albeit one that still loves a good dick joke. But who doesn’t?