Zac Efron, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (Justin Lubin/Universal Pictures)
In the comedy sequel, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, life is good for Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and pregnant wife Kelly (Rose Byrne) until the unruly sisters of Kappa Nu, led by Chloe Grace Moretz, move in next door. As the loud parties threaten the sale of their home, the couple turn to ex-neighbor and one-time enemy Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) for help. Now united with the former college student, the trio devises schemes to get the wild sorority off the block. Unfortunately, the rebellious young women refuse to go down without a fight.
Nowadays, sequels are already planned before a first movie is even released. According to Rogen, however, that wasn’t the case with Neighbors 2.
“We hadn’t even considered a sequel until the first one was released, and it was well received and did pretty well. We were just thinking, ‘where would the characters go next?’ Zac would have graduated college with no skills, and he’d probably be pretty depressed about it. That gave us an idea of where his story could go. With Rose and me, we thought about having them have another kid and enter the next phase of parenting. They might ask themselves, ‘are we being good parents?’ That’s how we came up with the idea of the sorority. We have a daughter, and we’re about to have another daughter. This was the perfect personification of your worst fears about what your daughter might be,” Rogen begins. “Then we learned that sororities weren’t allowed to throw parties, because an intern in our office was in a sorority. That’s also an interesting time in your development when you first go to college. It’s the first time where you kind of get to choose what you like, what you don’t like, who your friends are, what you stand for.”
I know what you’re thinking. Sure it might sound like a good concept, but sequels usually suck. That’s not the case with Neighbors 2, though. The Wrap says it’s “one of the best comedy sequels ever made,” while GQ calls it “the rare sequel that doesn’t suck.” Rogen says they weren’t so sure that the movie would be a success.
“We were praying to God that it wasn’t going to be embarrassing. Anything better than humiliating is success for us. None of us – and no one writing the movie – had ever made a sequel. We were trying to put a lot of thought about how not to make it terrible. We wanted to have an idea that was strong enough – so even if there hadn’t been Neighbors – we would be excited about this as an idea for a movie. We really liked these characters, and we asked, ‘where would these characters go next in their lives?’ When we were making it, it seemed funny, and we had fun, but you never know. I’ve made a lot of things that seemed really funny at the time, and they’re not.”
For a comedy to actually be funny, you have to hire people who are actually funny. It sounds so obvious, but we’ve all seen shows or films where someone was woefully miscast. The actors set the bar high in the film, which allows for greater comedic impact.
“We give people a lot of leeway. There are jokes in the script that we fall in love with, and we want to hit those. Sometimes, though, there are things that need to occur for the movie to progress. With the sorority girls especially, we don’t know how 18-year-olds speak to one another by any means. We had female writers on set, and we gave the script to a lot of female writers, but we’d be crazy to go to the girls and go, ‘Here’s how to say this.’ We were like, ‘How would you say this to one another,’” tells Rogen. “I remember on ‘Freaks & Geeks,’ the writers would say, ‘We’re not your age. How would you say this at your age?’ Plus, there were tons of great comedians in small roles, and it would be crazy to have them on set and not challenge them to come up with funnier stuff than what was written.”
One of the best sight gags in the film, which is also featured in the trailer, is the airbag scene with Rogen and Efron. According to Rogen, the airbag scene took less time to shoot than the beer throwing scene in the beginning between Efron and Dave Franco.
“It’s really the simplest thing. It’s something that’s been done since Buster Keaton times. You sit or stand, and then everyone freezes. Then you’re replaced with a dummy, which is catapulted. Then we yell freeze again and see the position that the dummy landed in, and then the actor goes into that position. That’s it. It’s so lo-fi it’s unbelievable. It probably only took a few thousand dollars in visual effects to make those shots.”
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is now in theaters.