This may seem like an odd double feature to do, but surprisingly my opinion of the two aren't too far off from each other. One film is a timely sequel to a hit comedy film just two years after the original's release, the other is a sequel nobody asked for starring an entirely different cast 26 years later. My opinion on the two originals are about the same in that, they're fine. Though the original Neighbors was funny and had some good performances, I was still pretty lukewarm to it overall and found myself barely remembering the events of the first film as I watched its sequel. I remember the original Kindergarten Cop from my childhood as both one of the few solid Schwarzenegger comedies and as one of the darker films still seemingly aimed towards kids (Plus it starred Crushed Celluloid favorite Richard Tyson as the villain). Neither one of these comedies were really begging for a sequel, but both surprised me in proving their worth, though in vastly different ways. I've been a bit sick over the last week and was already about a week late with these reviews when I started them. So buckle up as I talk about two films that nobody really cares about anymore a couple of weeks too late, as is Crushed Celluloid's way.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Neighbors 2 picks up in real time a couple of years after the first film, with Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne's young parents Mac and Kelly expecting their second child and trying to sell their house. Zac Efron's Teddy is also back, being stuck in the past and forced to confront his fight against growing up when his best friend Pete (Dave Franco) prepares to get married and kick Teddy out of their place. Enter three rebellious college freshmen (Chloë Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, and Beanie Feldstein) who in the face of rapey frat-bro parties and sororities that aren't allowed to throw their own parties (as the film says, “look it up”), decide to start their own sorority where they can have actual fun in a safe and supportive environment...right next door to Mac and Kelly. The lost Teddy becomes something of a mentor figure to the women, showing them the ropes of partying and making the rent, while they give him a sense of purpose and help him realize how gross and misogynistic many of his standard frat practices were in the past. After the ladies excise him when he becomes a buzzkilling old guy, a very hurt Teddy goes turncoat to help Mac and Kelly get them kicked out to save their in escrow house sale. It's a lot of plot to basically construct the same film as the original, but honestly just a little bit better this time around.
Reading over my review of the original, this sequel seems to suffer the same weaknesses along with the same strengths. Zac Efron continues to surprise me with how funny and heartfelt he makes Teddy. After his world and king status crashed down around him in the first film, he's left with nothing but a criminal record (“Seriously, it's like, hard to find jobs and stuff.”) and trying to cling to his friends as they move on with their lives. I don't know if there's just some magic in the air with this creative team, but they seem to get the absolute best out of Efron and he has yet to strike gold like this anywhere else. In the same way the frat brothers barely got any screen time in the first (a few relegated to extremely brief cameos here), so do the sorority sisters here, most strictly background or having a single characteristic to make them stand out, with such gems as “Girl with glasses that talks like a hype man” (her character name is actually Christine and she's played by Awkwafina, who I just found out is a rapper, definitely going to check that out). Even the three lead sisters seem to get shorted in this comedy that tries to stuff in three plot lines and a bunch of unnecessary returning players in a swift 90 minutes. While most comedies may work better in this time frame, this one lands more in the Apatow camp and would have benefited from letting the characters breathe a bit. I especially would have liked to see more of Kiersey Clemons, who has a dynamic personality and steals every scene she's in, much like she did in last year's Dope. The movie was sadly missing a scene from the trailer where her character's father (played by LLCoolJ) discovers her sex toy collection. It was also missing a scene of the cops played by Hannibal Buress and Jerrod Carmichael crashing into a bunch of shit in a giant UTV, I would have liked to know what that's all about.
I really hope some kind of extended director's cut see the light of day. Not only is the editing particularly choppy, as if large connecting chunks were excised, but several things are mentioned and eluded to, only to never pay off or come up again. It feels like there's a good 15-20 minutes missing from the film that perhaps should have stayed. A good example is early in the film when the three women first bond after the horrifying frat party. Moretz reveals she's a virgin and later in the film there's a quick cut of them throwing her a “losing your virginity” party in a montage, without addressing or following through on it. In the same scene, Clemon's character mentions she's been in a serious relationship since grade school, but it's never brought up again, nor do we see her struggle with the freedom of branching out in college while being in a long distance relationship. I guess it was just to make a Boy Meets World reference, which it seems like kids that young wouldn't even get, unless they're Girl Meets World fans (which I most certainly am not...shut up). I know this is a sequel to a film about Rogen and Byrne's characters, but a lot of their stuff falls flat and feels the most recycled from the original (their daughter always finding Byrne's vibrator completely works though). Plus, if you're going to introduce these new characters and make them so fun and likeable, why not spend a little more time with them, like you did with the lead frat brothers in the first film? Neighbors 2 is just overstuffed in trying to cram these three elements together in such a short time. I really could have completely done without Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo coming back, as they feel the most shoehorned in and unnecessary (except for that MRA joke). They were fine in both films, but they are just mirroring the “worrying about being good parents” thing, which Rogen and Byrne are still going through in this one! Don't get me wrong, the film is still really funny and has the same heart as the first one, but it's still just as forgettable, if not a little better with the new characters and sorority angle.
7 out of 10 Hillary Clinton Costumes
Kindergarten Cop 2
There's no reason for this movie to exist, and while it's not great by any means, it still kind of works (The End...just kidding). Kindergarten Cop 2 is a sequel in name and basic premise only, subbing in Dolph Lundgren for Schwarzenegger as a buff, tough as nails cop forced to go undercover as a kindergarten teacher (that Dolph is quite the substitute...haha). The jokes are pretty much the same, save for a few half-hearted “my, how the times have changed” half-jokes, there's product placement out the wazoo, and several moments of laugh out loud what-the-fuckery...and I kind of liked it. Sure, the movie seems like a desperate cash grab of nostalgia and brand recognition. Sure, Dolph with kids doesn't work anywhere near as well as it did with Schwarzenegger. Sure, there's a cringe worthy scene of the kids going apeshit on sugar while the song “I Want Candy” plays in the most cliché of ways. Sure, it contains an extended sequence of Dolph Lundgren line dancing in a country bar and forcing his love interest to suggestively ride a mechanical bull. Sure, his love interest is young enough to be his daughter in a very creepy and unbelievable way that no one seems to notice or recognize. Sure...wait, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, despite this long list of sure (I even edited a few out), it's still a pretty likeable movie, even though it's a sad shadow of a movie that wasn't that great to begin with.
FBI Agents Reed (Lundgren) and Sanders (Def Jam's How To Be A Player's Bill Bellamy) are after a Mcguffin in the form of a flash drive that contains the witness protection database. Some hacker guy stole it and gave it to his brother, a kindergarten teacher that recently died in a mysterious car accident. Russian baddie Zogu (Aleks Paunovic) is also after the drive and has a vendetta against Reed after he gets caught in a sting operation where Reed was boinking his lady Katja (Dolph's previous love interest that's about 30 years his junior). After Sanders searches the teachers prestigious touchy feely liberal school and comes up with jack, Reed takes it upon himself to go undercover as the brother's replacement...hijinks ensue. While trying to discover the location of the flash drive and probing the children for information, he meets fellow kindergarten teacher Olivia (Darla Taylor). As is Reed's way, he starts to fall for Olivia because I guess he has a thing for wooing ladies under false pretenses by inserting himself as some sort of badass father figure with a heart of gold. The mission isn't as easy as he initially thought though, because these dang kids are being raised to explore their feelings and view each other as equals and Dolph's not down with that PC liberal bullmess. I mean, the dude can't even eat a peanut butter sandwich or try to wrangle his class with a bullhorn without getting in trouble with new age principle Miss Sinclaire (Sarah Strange, who would have made a much more suitable love interest for Dolph, given that she's only 17 years younger than him). What's an old school tough guy to do?
Reed starts to take a liking to these kids and even stops a vaguely drunk father from vaguely abusing his daughter (though I think the daughter was just sad) by vaguely offering to help get him a job, since his drinking comes from getting laid off from his well paying writing job (ha, like those exist). So after a lot of searching, falling in love, and wacky comedic misunderstandings, everything comes to a head at a Japanese garden where the kids were going to bury a time capsule with the flash drive inside of it! Somehow, the detectives figure this out from a word puzzle hidden in the children's poem about their pet hamster that for some reason the original teacher taught them and left as a clue to the whereabouts of the flash drive because...uhh...plot? So Zogu and Reed face off and the children help take out the bad guys and Dolph saves the day with a Twix bar, or something like that. The more I talk about it, the more I don't even understand why I liked this movie. There's a scene where Dolph does something well with the kids and gives Bellamy a thumbs up through the camera he's observing from, to which Bellamy gives a thumbs up back...to the monitor, which Dolph cannot see. There are at least three scenes that center on Dolph's love/required product endorsement of Twix. There are at least two scenes that involve kids peeing on things (a plant and Dolph himself, respectively). There is a scene where the bad Russian guy is threatening his henchmen while gutting a large fish. Okay, now I'm starting to get why I like this movie. It's ridiculous and stupid and it's the kind of movie you can put on while drunk or recovering from being drunk and stare at blankly until it hits you upside the head with things that shouldn't exist in the world of cinema. I'm not the most intelligent or highbrow of folks, and I feel like this movie was made just for me...and that's something special.
5 out of 10 Microwaved Tofu Explosions