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Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)
June 11, 2016, 2:31 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Nicholas Stoller
2 Stars
Neighbors 2 - Sorority RisingIf Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising seems to be in another ill-advised sequel in a year in which “when did we ask for this?” has become a mantra, it is surprisingly thoughtful in is approach. It’s the rare retread in which the film aspires to be of its cultural moment as much as it attempts to remake itself. In setting the antagonists (that is, the antagonists from the point-of-view of Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne)) as young girls, the film comments on a radical social transition, where topics like campus rape culture and young female degradation are more discussed than ever. The best way of examining these issues becomes the former fratboy Teddy (Zac Efron), now viewed as out-of-touch by college students and still hopelessly childish by the adults, who at one point is asked to recall how every frat party he threw involved the word “ho.” But if Neighbors 2 is satisfying inasmuch as it is the rare sequel with new ideas, it is unfortunately not particularly funny, nor was the formula of the first picture worth revisiting (really, is there a less memorable Rogen vehicle than Neighbors?) Furthermore, if the complicated relationship the film has with the sorority is its best conversation piece, Chloë Grace Moretz is woefully miscast as their leader. Trying to play a down-to-earth, relatable young woman, Moretz feels like royalty trying to play a peasant—full of exaggerated gestures and a grating enthusiasm in her line deliveries that plays as no less desperate than Teddy. Rogen and Byrne, in particular, continue to perform well as Gen-X’ers struggling to identify as adults, even if the filmmakers forgot just how funny Byrne was in the original by giving her very little to do in the sequel.



The Five-Year Engagement (2012)
June 3, 2012, 7:08 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Nicholas Stoller

Like 2010’s Going the Distance, The Five-Year Engagement probes into the strain that professional ambition places on a relationship. Jason Segel, again co-writing with frequent collaborator and director Nicholas Stoller, plays a rising sous chef in San Francisco who is forced to give up his position in the kitchen when his fiancée, played by Emily Blunt, is offered a postdoc fellowship in the midwest. Most of what follows goes down amiably, holding few surprises but packing plenty of charm. Where Stoller falters – outside of the overblown length (what is it with the two hour plus run times that plague the Apatow universe?) – is in indulging in broad, farcical humor alongside the otherwise realistic degradation of the couple. In a particularly misguided sequence, Segel takes his new hobby for hunting too far. Not only does he grow out a mountain man’s beard, but he finds absurd uses for deer hide around the dinner table. The best screwball comedies of old often tested the limits of plausibility, but those films existed in a universe that was distinctly Hollywood – carefree, filled with glitz and glamor. The very casting of Segel – a go-to schlubby nice guy – grounds the world in a sense of realism that the script is often at odds with. When, in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Segel performs a puppet musical about Dracula, the audience is not meant to feel sorry for or pity him, but rather admire his oddball creativity. Here, the joke of mountain man Segel turns him purely into a punchline, so externalizing his feelings of complacency that it reduces the character’s struggle purely to farce. Nonetheless, if the comedic elements are not entirely successful, much of the drama is. There’s a vitriolic argument that occurs in bed that harbors both great authenticity and even a few sly laughs. One can only hope that Stoller will soon learn how to tell his stories more economically and with better tonal consistency, as his promise does provide some resistance against the dearth of quality found in contemporary romantic comedies.