BAD NEIGHBOURS 2 (15, 92 mins) Comedy/Romance. Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Dave Franco, Elise Vargas. Director: Nicholas Stoller.
Released: May 6 (UK & Ireland)
Terrible neighbours become good friends in Nicholas Stoller’s likeable sequel to his 2014 comedy, which pitted an exhausted couple with a newborn baby against scheming members of a party-loving fraternity.
The gender tables are turned and then flooded with sticky sentiment in Bad Neighbours 2, which plays out a foul-mouthed battle of the sexes and pleads with us to care about archetypal characters on both sides of the bitter conflict.
Gags from the original film are recycled and the five scriptwriters, including lead actor Seth Rogen, lovingly embrace every demographic, eschewing the usual homophobic humour by decking their narrative with rainbow flags.
Indeed, Zac Efron verbally acknowledges his gay fanbase and panders to them shamelessly by spending extended sequences of the film dressed in nothing except a pair of tight-fitting shorts.
Timely messages about the perils of modern parenting, gender equality and the political incorrectness of fraternities who put bros before hoes are merrily flung into the scatological mix.
Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) buy a new home where they can safely raise their cherubic two-year-old daughter, Stella (Elise Vargas).
The couple agree a sale on their current house and are placed in escrow by the estate agent, allowing the new buyers a 30-day period to survey the property before signing a legally binding contract.
In the interim, a newly formed sorority led by wild child Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) moves into the house next door and prepares to party with a vengeance.
Mac and Kelly are horrified - the buyers could pull out of the house sale when they discover the new neighbours are unruly teenage girls.
So the Radners resolve to drive out the sorority, aided by Mike’s pal Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz) and his pregnant wife Paula (Carla Gallo).
However, the girls of Kappa Nu have a secret weapon - Mac and Kelly’s old adversary Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), who is struggling to come to terms with the impending gay wedding of his best friend Pete (Dave Franco).
Bad Neighbours 2 is just as lewd and crude as its predecessor, replete with menstrual blood, a bright pink sex toy and one actor’s pendulous undercarriage.
Rogen and Efron gamely fling themselves into the physically demanding set pieces, while Byrne and Moretz prove they can be potty-mouthed minxes without completely relinquishing their femininity.
A few gags hit their mark including a gasp-inducing one-liner about the Holocaust and a salty sideswipe at Bill Cosby.
There are also plenty of polished barbs about female empowerment in an age when overt sexuality is wielded as a weapon of mass male distraction.
Sweetness is the sequel’s weakness and ultimately, the only casualty of this hard-fought war is realism.