The Daddy-Daughter Double Feature of Neighbors 2 and The Nice Guys

By  · Published on May 20th, 2016

Father’s Day fare arrives early this year.

It seemed unwise for Warner Bros. and Universal to both release big comedies this weekend, but while it might not work out for the studios in terms of the likely box office split, it’s a positive for us moviegoers if we can spare the time and money for the pair. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and The Nice Guys make for a great double feature, even if only because each is so distinctly hilarious that it’s hard to recommend one over the other.

They also go well together for a specific reason: both movies deal with fathers and daughters and the difficulty for the former of seeing the latter grow up. Neither movie puts the theme so forward that it’s central to the plot, though. One is primarily about a battle between a married couple and a sorority living and partying next door, and the other is a typical hardboiled detective story focused on a missing girl mixed up in the porn industry.

Perhaps it’s just because I’m a father and have a daughter myself that I latched on to certain paternal elements of these two comedies. That I identified with Seth Rogen in the Neighbors sequel playing a dad to one little girl (Elise and Zoey Vargas) with a second on the way and with Ryan Gosling’s character in The Nice Guys having a 13-year-old daughter (Angourie Rice) – far more than I related to the men’s respective equal partners (in marriage/business) on screen, played by Rose Byrne and Russell Crowe.

But there is definite address in both movies of the daddy-daughter dynamic. Rogen’s Mac talks with his buddy Jimmy (Ike Barinholtz), who is about to have a son, on the differences in their kids’ genders, particularly regarding how dads approach and accept the sexual maturity of male offspring versus female. Mac’s kids are too young, however, for him to be faced with anything firsthand as far as his relationships with his daughters go.

Yet indirectly, while battling a bunch of them, he comes to understand the issues of young women growing into adulthood, becoming independent, and trying to find their strength and equality in a sexist society. Even without the brief interaction he has with the sorority leader’s dad, Mac could easily see his own little girls’ future in these college freshman figuring shit out and fighting a system where every male seems to be a potential predator.

The Nice Guys makes a similar correlation between the adolescent daughter of Gosling’s Holland and the missing girl (Margaret Qualley), who hardly looks much older and turns out to be the star of an pornographic film. And one of her parents (although not her father) shows up to remind us that she too is someone’s kid. Holland’s daughter, who is named Holly, also has scenes in which she has snuck into an adult film industry party and bonds with its “porno young ladies,” as she likes to call them, and with them watches their work projected on a wall.

Early in the movie, Crowe’s character comments via voiceover about how kids of “today” (the movie is set in 1977) are growing up too fast and know too much. He says it while he’s working a case involving a girl the exact same age as Holly having an affair with an older man who supplies her with drugs. Holland never seems worried about his daughter and sex, though. Nor does the movie really directly address her maturity in that way. Both are more concerned for her with respect to the violence that comes with his job.

Neighbors 2 and The Nice Guys both feature girls, daughters, whose maturity is about empowerment in the face of various dangers that come with being women but also, in some circumstances, with just growing up, period. And both feature men, dads of daughters, tasked with respecting young women, whether they’re their own kids or not, in such transformative times. And seeing that it’s scarier yet more significant for them than for us fathers.

It’s hard to say if the double feature is appropriate for dads and daughters to see together, and if so at what age for the latter. Some of it could be awkward as far as the laughs go at any time, but late teens would probably be an okay age for girls to see them (both are Rated R) on a daddy-daughter date. That said, these are movies for fathers and daughter to definitely see, but each would likely appreciate them more seen on their own.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.