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Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016) movie poster Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Theatrical Release: May 20, 2016 / Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Nicholas Stoller / Writers: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O'Brien (characters & screenplay); Nicholas Stoller, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen (screenplay)

Cast: Seth Rogen (Mac Radner), Zac Efron (Teddy Sanders), Rose Byrne (Kelly Radner), Chloë Grace Moretz (Shelby), Ike Barinholtz (Jimmy), Kiersey Clemons (Beth), Dave Franco (Pete), Jerrod Carmichael (Garf), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Scoonie), Beanie Feldstein (Nora), Clara Mamet (Maranda), Awkwafina (Christine), Selena Gomez (Phi Lamda President), Hannibal Buress (Officer Watkins), Elise & Zoey Vargas (Stella Radner), Carla Gallo (Paula), John Early (Darren), Johnny Pemberton (Frat President), Kyle Mooney (R.A.), Lisa Kudrow (Dean Carol Gladstone), Ian Gregg (Second Frat Guy), Jacob Wysocki (Live Tinder Guy), Liz Cackowski (Wendy the Realtor), Kelsey Grammer (Shelby's Dad), Sam Richardson (Eric Baiers), Abbi Jacobsen (Jessica Baiers), Billy Eichner (Oliver Studebaker), Brian Huskey (Bill Wazakowski)

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Seth Rogen got his big break through Judd Apatow, but he's long since stood on his own and today is a far more recognizable brand than Apatow, whose writing, directing, and producing careers have all slowed in recent years. For a while now, you've known what you're getting from a Seth Rogen comedy
and that's usually true whether Rogen is working in front of the camera, behind it, or, as is most frequently the case, on both sides of it. 2014's Neighbors was a solid early summer hit on the basis of Rogen's sensibilities. He was a producer and star, with three other Apatow alumni serving creative roles: Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) directing and former Apatow assistants Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien making their writing debuts.

With grosses of $150 million domestic and $271 million worldwide on a budget of just $18 million, Neighbors was kind of a no-brainer for sequel treatment if all the key parties were interested. Even though Rogen has been resistant towards sequels up until now, he was onboard with this one, even expanding the writing team with his creative partner Evan Goldberg and Stoller making for a quintet.

Opening two years and two weeks after its predecessor, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising enjoyed favorable reviews, down a bit from the first one. But the anticipated audience was not there; the sequel grossed barely a third of the original's domestic total and less than half of its foreign market haul. The performance might seem to threaten the creative power Rogen and company have, but they've overcome bigger obstacles before, like The Interview. They soon rebounded with Sausage Party, the raunchy animated comedy that is inching towards $100 M domestic on critical acclaim and decent legs for a 2016 summer opening.

Kelly (Rose Byrne) and Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) are surprised and disturbed to find the former frat house next door is now housing a newly formed sorority while their house is in escrow.

Neighbors 2 opens with married couple Mac (Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) learning that they're expecting a second child. In the first film, the Radners had the challenges of raising a newborn baby magnified by having a rowdy fraternity house next door. As the subtitle, which is interestingly dropped for the Blu-ray and DVD cover art, indicates, the family vs. frat war of the original film has now become family vs. sorority.

The Radners are in the process of selling their house and have found buyers, but now they must get through the 30-day escrow process, during which the buyers can show up anytime unannounced and decide to back out on the sale. The obstacle to closing comes from an unlikely place: three college freshmen disillusioned by their new sorority Phi Lamda decide to start their own independent sorority that is not subjected to the sexist rules that say only frats, not sororities, can host parties. High school outcasts and fast friends Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Dope's Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein, the real life sister of Jonah Hill going for Rebel Wilson-type screen presence) start Kappa Nu, renting out the former frat house next door to the Radners for $5,000 a month they intend to raise with party dues and a weed market monopoly resale.

Aiding the girls as mentor is the Radners' old nemesis, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), who has found post-collegiate life less than fulfilling with his employment-hindering criminal record and now being asked to move out of the house where the new fiancé (John Early) of his best friend (Dave Franco) is about to move in. Questioning his life and value, Teddy switches sides to help the Radners after the newly empowered Kappa Nu girls vote to push him out.

High school outcasts Nora (Beanie Feldstein), Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), and Beth (Kiersey Clemons) start the independent sorority Kappa Nu in "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising."

Neighbors 2 is clearly a cut above other raunchy college comedies, from Revenge of the Nerds to the American Pie sequels. Sure, it's crude and somewhat juvenile, but as with other Rogen comedies, there is some genuine social commentary. Thought is given to life phases and gender roles. A decade ago, Rogen was the wild child of Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin. Now, he is the family man, embracing parenthood and marriage and wanting the youth to pipe down and show some respect. That should sound like a boring, thankless straight man role, but Rogen and Byrne prevent their characters, who are irresponsible in their own ways, from playing like that.

The Radners may be party poopers, but they're also capable of fighting back, as in the elaborate sequence where they plot to steal the copious amounts of weed that will raise for Kappa Nu the funds needed to pay rent.
Efron, who has defied the short expiration date that ordinarily applies to actors who emerge as heartthrobs, proves to have some comic chops as the wild card of this sequel. The original Neighbors was a renaissance of sorts for him, remaking him as a jacked-up party animal instead of just the pretty boy of the laughable, popular High School Musical movies. The respectable performances of his like-minded 2016 romps Dirty Grandpa and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates suggest his movie stardom isn't as moribund as summer 2015's record-breaking flop We Are Your Friends indicated.

Neighbors 2 would also seem to usher in a new phase for Chloë Grace Moretz, an actress who has endured and evolved in the six years since Kick-Ass established her as a foul-mouthed pre-teen. But Moretz, whose other 2016 release (the dystopian YA adaptation The 5th Wave) was largely a non-starter, has since announced she's taking a break from acting to reassess her life and career.

As a sequel, Neighbors 2 did not command the far-reaching admiration and praise that its predecessor did. But the fact that it did not prompt the kneejerk critical disdain that other comedy sequels frequently have (as recently as Zoolander 2 and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2) is an accomplishment in of itself.

Universal brought Neighbors 2 to stores this week in a DVD and the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here. Consistent with the first film, though not the Rogen oeuvre, it is presented exclusively in its R-rated theatrical cut and not any kind of unrated edit.

Neighbors 2: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 5.1 DTS (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Extras Subtitled; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $34.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9 & BD-50)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

New studio comedies almost always look good on Blu-ray and Neighbors 2 is no exception. The 2.40:1 presentation is vibrant, sharp, and trouble-free. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack has a good amount of life to it.

Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) try out some female alternatives to "bros before hoes" in this alternate version of the film's closing scene. Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) features prominently in Line-O-Rama as he voices his pre-fatherhood fears.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's extras begin with a substantial section of twelve deleted scenes (24:14). They include a performance by otherwise unseen Jenny Slate as Kelly's boss, Teddy blowing up and quitting his clothing store job, Kappa Nu brainstorming prank ideas, Shelby trying to seduce Teddy, more of Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) freaking out about aging and becoming a father, and Teddy and Pete coming up with female alternatives to "bros before hoes."

A gag reel (4:24) preserves cast goofs and laughs. "Line-O-Rama" (4:48), of course, presents alternate lines, some of them butchered by uncontrollable laughter and many of them from Ike Barinholtz's troubled character.

Kiersey Clemons discusses her sorority sister in "Girls Rule." If you're going to be Seth Rogen's double, you've got to have hair randomly applied to your back.

A stretch of making-of featurettes begins with "Nu Neighbors" (8:09), a fairly general piece that supplies behind-the-scenes footage and collects cast ideas for where the franchise could go after this.

"The Prodigal Bros Return" (5:01) looks at what the frat boys are up to now. "Girls Rule" (6:14) celebrates the girls who make up Kappa Nu. "The Ultimate Tailgate" (5:09) takes us inside the film's big set piece of fights and weed thievery, mainly in terms of Zac Efron's abs and Seth Rogen's hairy back.

Finally, there is a feature audio commentary by director/co-writer Nicholas Stoller and producer James Weaver. They take the task seriously: discussing topics like reshoots, edits made from test screenings, and trying to make a good sequel (Stoller evidently looked at the Toy Story movies for guidance). But despite that unusual substance, they also try to keep the track light and funny. They mention that LL Cool J and Molly Shannon shot cameos as the sorority sisters' parents but were cut, also filmed but deleted (and sadly not presented here) were Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham. It's a worthier listen than you'd expect.

The DVD has all the same extras that the Blu-ray does.

The discs open with trailers for Free State of Jones, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, and The Purge: Election Year. These are not accessible by menu and no trailers for either Neighbors movie are included here.

The static main menu adapts poster art, with a score excerpt that shifts tonally.

An insert supplying your Digital HD code and another code to get a second free digital movie joins the two plainly labeled red and silver discs inside a keepcase that is topped by an embossed slipcover.

The grown-ups of "Neighbors 2" go all out with wigs, masks, and drawn-on abs to steal Kappa Nu's weed.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you can handle racy comedy, you should find Neighbors 2 to be consistently entertaining. This sequel may have disappointed at the box office, but it shows more creativity than the hasty cash-in and retread that most comedy follow-ups amount to.

Universal's combo pack more than gets the job done with a fine feature presentation and lots of worthwhile extras.

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Rose Byrne: Adult BeginnersI Give It a YearThis Is Where I Leave You | Ike Barinholtz: Sisters
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Reviewed September 23, 2016.



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