NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING
About The Production
Released in 2014, the original comedy Neighbors struck a chord with audiences
who enjoyed the film's tale of the uproarious battle between a young couple and
the fraternity that moved in next door. Naturally, the film's hearty box-office
and critical acclaim spawned discussions of a follow-up between its
creators-director Nicholas Stoller and producers Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and
Determined not to suffer the same fate as the trite comedy sequels of the
past-ones that ended up as overstuffed re-hashings of the originals-the team
underscored that bigger doesn't mean better. Comments Rogen, who stars in and
produces the film: "The conversation wasn't how to escalate it; that's where a
lot of sequels go wrong. It was how to evolve it. We weren't trying to add more
and make a bigger version of the first; we wanted to explore what the next thing
was that would happen in these people's lives."
In an effort to avoid the pitfalls and tropes of sequels gone wrong, the
creative team extensively researched sequels they felt had parallel themes and
found their greatest inspiration from a surprising source. Notes Stoller: "This
is like a gross R-rated dirty disgusting Toy Story...but Toy Story nonetheless.
It's about growing up, getting older, and what is both funny and bittersweet
about that process...and how it relates to every character in the movie."
A few years after taking down the frat that moved in next door, reformed
partyers Mac and Kelly find themselves entering a new phase of life. With baby
no. 2 on the way, the couple is preparing to move their growing family out of
the college town and head toward the last bastion of full-blown adulthood.
Now that Stella (ELISE VARGAS) is entering the phase in which toddlers discover
the power of the word "no!", Mac and Kelly are faced with the notion that their
beautiful daughter will one day grow to become a rebellious teen and look at
them with the same disdain for adults that they once did. Sums Stoller: "The
film is about the terror and fear all parents feel that they are doing a bad job
as parents and that one day their kid's going to hate them."
It was this duality of purpose that appealed to the team. Says Rogen: "The first
film dealt with not wanting to accept the idea of growing up and still having
the desire to party and act immature. In this one they've accepted that they've
grown up, but don't want to accept that their kids are going to grow up and
eventually dislike them. While the first one was about Mac and Kelly wanting to
still be kids, this one is about them trying to control a kid."
For the Radners' former neighbor, Teddy Sanders, time has proven to be somewhat
unforgiving. After taking the fall for Delta Psi and his resulting expulsion,
Teddy is stuck in a meaningless retail job without any sense of purpose or
With his frat buddies settling into their adult lives and establishing
themselves both professionally and personally, Teddy is becoming increasingly
aware that he might be left behind. "Teddy is in somewhat of a fragile state,"
explains Efron. "He is on the brink of a new phase of life and is having a
quarter-life crisis. All his old Delta Psi brothers have gone on and
accomplished things, and he is stagnant and not progressing in the world."
While Teddy is slowly unraveling and questioning how to put his very specific
(and seemingly useless) skill set to good use, Mac and Kelly are preparing for
their next big step. With a buyer locked in and the 30-day escrow period
underway, lightning strikes again when a new tenant moves into the old Delta Psi
house. Explains Rose Byrne: "Mac and Kelly are trying to move further into their
domesticity; and lo and behold, a sorority moves in next door. They are faced
with the possibility that they might lose both the house they're selling and the
house they bought, so the stakes are high."
The sorority serves as a cruel reminder of Mac and Kelly's worst fear: the
eventuality that their daughter will one day grow up to hate them. Explains
Rogen: "We've accepted that we've grown up but don't want to accept that our
kids are going to grow up, start to dislike us and ultimately become the girls
While developing the project, numerous story ideas and scenarios were bandied
about (Delta Psi returns years later! There's a mythological party dorm called
Dormopolis!), the creative team ultimately landed on the idea of a hard-partying
sorority moving into the vacant house next door. It was then that they made a
surprising discovery. "Someone in our office was in a sorority and overheard us
talking about the idea of a hard-partying sorority moving in next door," recalls
Rogen. "She offhandedly mentioned that they actually aren't allowed to throw
parties. Once we looked it up, we found that it was true it gave us the idea for
the whole storyline."
In fact, a little Googling dug up the fact that Greek letter sororities are
barred from serving alcohol at their residences. With the discovery of this
glaring gender inequality, the filmmakers had stumbled on an interesting issue
that broadened the scope of the Neighbors universe. "When we started researching
how sororities work, we were shocked at how sexist the system was," says Evan
Goldberg. "Seth and I are from Canada and assumed that they threw parties just
like the frats did. We knew that having a feminist undertone and storyline would
make the movie a lot more interesting."
Of course, the girls arriving at the film's college, Braxton, were ready to
taste the storied college culture-away from the eyes of their parents and
restrictions of high school life. Once they grasped the reality that they
couldn't throw-down as hard as the boys, they found an ideal worth fighting for.
Any self-respecting girl has to fight for her right to party.
With one house desperate to make it through escrow and another desperate to
start a legacy outside a male-oriented system, things quickly escalate and Teddy
is stuck in between. As the girls' tactics get more and more ruthless, our hero
is forced to choose between the Greeks and a system he once loved...or switch
sides to bring the sorority down.
The creators of the first film's characters, Andrew Jay Cohen & Brendan O'Brien,
are joined by Rogen, Weaver and Stoller in screenplay duties on the second
comedy. Together, they imagined Mac and Kelly going head to head with a group of
empowered young women attempting to challenge a sexist system.
On some level, the nobility of the sorority's cause allows them to be more
vicious and blurs the lines of just who the villains are. "The Kappa Nu girls
have a much clearer vision and much more of a just goal this time around," says
Rogen. "It is said that the best villains are sympathetic. Because of that, the
girls are able to go much further and are a lot scarier than the Delta Psi guys
As is true in times of war, ethics are put to the test when fighting for
progress and change on the path to righteousness. States Stoller: "What the
girls want to do is oddly a valiant and noble pursuit. So even as they're being
despicable to Mac and Kelly, you're kind of rooting for them to succeed because
they're fighting the system."
It was crucial to the creative team that these be real characters, not just
punchlines. The women of Kappa Nu are fighting for something they really believe
in. The ideas explored through the scope of the characters address how women are
usually portrayed in the genre, and this comedy does its part to level the
playing field. In the Neighbors universe, the women are liberated and free
enough to have fun at their own expense...just like the guys.
"One of the running jokes in the movie is we have a lot of pretty dim-witted
characters debating the rules of feminism," says Stoller. "It's kind of feminist
to be able to act like an idiot, which is also a comment on how a lot of
comedies don't usually allow women to be idiots the way men are."
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