Chloë Grace Moretz (left) and Seth Rogen in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (Photo: Universal)

★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Nicholas Stoller
STARS Seth Rogen, Zac Efron

The law of diminishing returns comes down with Mjölnir force on Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, a needless sequel that feels even more needless than the usual needless sequel.

The 2014 hit Neighbors found married couple and new parents Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) having to contend with rowdy fraternity brothers who move in next door. This sequel ingeniously finds Mac and Kelly now having to contend with rowdy sorority sisters who move in next door. The leader of the college clique is Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), who understandably is upset with the sexist double standards that exist within the university Greek system and elects to create her own sorority house off campus. Mac and Kelly are initially losing the battle since the sisters are being aided by Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), the frat rat who gave the Radners so much trouble the first time around. But once Teddy is forced to switch his allegiance, the battle lines are more clearly drawn and the sides more evenly matched.

The notion of making a college-set comedy that tackles patriarchal norms among students sounds intriguing until one realizes that this film is even less progressive than such similar efforts as 2007’s Sydney White and 2008’s The House Bunny. Shelby and her friends are all painted as unreasonable and disloyal, and director Nicholas Stoller and his five (all-male) scripters believe that having the sorority sisters throw bloody tampons at a neighbor’s window and rip the clothes off a middle-aged man are sterling examples of feminist empowerment.

There are a few chuckles tossed like birdseed along the way, though most of the humor is of the desperate, gross-out variety (the movie even begins with Kelly puking all over Mac’s face). And while the so-so original had trouble maintaining consistency with its characters, at least it had characters — Mac and Kelly, so likable in the first flick as they struggled to hold onto their own youthful zeal, are empty shells here, merely marking time as the next gag is being set up. And didn’t Neighbors end with Mac and Teddy on good terms? That’s tossed out because it didn’t jibe with the direction the scripters wanted to take with this follow-up. Such a lazy stance proves to be less Creative Writing 101 and more Uncreative Loafing 101.

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