The stars of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising — Seth Rogen as the hapless dad Mac (Mac?) Radner, Rose Byrne as his equally hapless wife Kelly — disappear for about fifteen minutes during the first act. In their place, the movie’s main “antagonist,” freshman sorority wannabe and burgeoning feminist Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) takes center stage. First she interrupts a giggly sorority introduction to express her distaste for it, only to find out that sororities in the United States are forbidden by the National Panhellenic Council to host parties. Later that day, she attends her first fraternity party, where she’s horrified by the male-driven debauchery on display. She returns to her dorm to commiserate and smoke weed — everyone in this movie likes smoking weed! — with two new friends Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein), who help her arrive at the idea of starting a new sorority in their own image.
How rare is it to see a mainstream studio comedy treat the thoughts and emotions of a young woman and her friends with this much attention and nuance? Rare enough that Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising has been labeled “feminist” and “progressive” by many observers, as well as not feminist and flimsily progressive by observers of those observers. The movie’s main conflict comes when Shelby’s fledgling sorority Kappa Nu moves into the house formerly occupied by the onetime fraternity bro Teddy (Zac Efron), who terrorized the Radners during the first movie and returns to do the same as a mentor figure for Kappa Nu this time around. Mac and Kelly balk at the return of hard partying to their block, especially in the midst of a 30-day period of escrow on their old home, during which their tentative new homeowners (Sam Richardson from Veep and Abbi Jacobson from Broad City, both amusing but underutilized) can drop their bid at the first sight of trouble. But Kappa Nu doesn’t want to stop — they’re on a mission of gender parity and drunken revelry that won’t be deterred by a dorky middle-aged dude and his pregnant wife.