Pitch Perfect 2 Review
AN ACCA-AWESOME SEQUEL
2012 was the year that made a cappella singing “acca-awesome” with the surprise musical comedy Pitch Perfect. Made with a modest sum of only $17 million, this sleeper hit, which grossed $117 million worldwide, followed uninitiated newcomer Beca Mitchell and her singing cohort (the Barden Bellas) in the cut-throat world of collegiate acappella. While not much celebrity star-power, the film’s musical scenes were the true highlight Pitch Perfect, playing acappella versions of famous songs (both familiar oldies and recent hits). Returning to the center stage and flexing their vocal nodules, the Barden Bellas are back in the sequel Pitch Perfect 2. Does this second installment make pitch to its predecessor or does it sing an off-key follow-up?
After consecutively winning the national championship for the past three years, a revealing wardrobe debacle at the Kennedy Center has ruined the Barden Bellas’s showmanship credibility and pushed out of the competition circuit and publicly shamed. Looking for a way to redeem her beloved Bellas, Chloe (Brittany Snow), signs the group up for an international acappella show with the reign champions, a German group called “Das Sound Machine”, eager to defend their title and squash the American group out of the competition. As the Barden Bellas try to rally together for the international sing-off in Copenhagen, Denmark, the group becomes disjointed with team leader Beca (Anna Kendrick) pursing an internship at a record label, Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) struggles to clearly define her ambiguous relationship with former Treblemaker Bumper (Adam DeVine), and newcomer Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) hopes to find her place amongst the seasoned Bellas players. Can the group coming together and find their harmony with themselves, each other, and in their vocal performances?
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I’ll admit that I did not see Pitch Perfect in theaters, writing it off as a feature film that was riding on the success and popularity of the television show Glee with similar musical attributes. A year after its release, while I was on vacation with my family, I was introduced to Pitch Perfect by my brother and his soon-to-be-wife and fell in love with it (Thanks, Justin and Erica). My preconceived notion of this a cappella movie moved into the back of my mind as I ran to buy the Blu-Ray when I got home from vacation (as well as the soundtrack). Since then, Pitch Perfect has a fan favorite of mine that I play time and time again; a favored choice when I want to watch something light or when nothing good is on TV. So, naturally, I was excited to hear that a sequel was green lit by Universal Pictures. In a nutshell, Pitch Perfect 2 stumbles here and there, but still delivers a solid presentation for a sequel.
The story of Pitch Perfect 2 may sound familiar as the film’s narrative is somewhat vaguely reminiscent of other competition movies as well as its repurposed theme from the original movie. While I was hoping for something brand new to be thrown into the mix, I expected Pitch Perfect 2 to be like this, following a familiar tone that’s peppered with minor subplots. Maybe a little too much on the subplots as certain characters (secondary ones) are pushed into the background and are simply there for either comic relief or minor plot devices for either the story or character moments. The movie also draws a conclusion that doesn’t quite work well, leaving several narrative threads dangling as if to be picked up by another sequel at a later date. Even the concept of creating an original song has already been done and tackled in season two of Glee. Yet, Pitch Perfect 2 is enjoyable. Those looking for more originality to its story, however, will be slightly disappointed.
Replacing the first film’s director (Jason Moore), actress Elizabeth Banks sits in the director’s chair for Pitch Perfect 2 and, given the track record of comedy sequels, does a pretty good job of keeping the musical comedy sequel with afloat with entertainment. Banks seems to listen to the fans of the first Pitch Perfect, taking what made the original film great and expands upon those ideas for Pitch Perfect 2. Of course, the most notable ones derive from the musical numbers. The famous “Riff-Off” from the first film returns bigger and better this time around. Taking place in the mansion of a cappella enthusiast fanatic (played by David Cross), this new Riff-off is chock full of cameos, heated a cappella covers, and laughter, providing to be one of the best highlighted scenes in the movie. Of course, the crescendo finale piece by the Barden Bellas is also a great one with a blending of catchy songs and a brand new original song. In truth, all the songs in Pitch Perfect 2 are quite catchy and I suspect that a lot of fans of the movie will run out to buy (or download) the soundtrack to Pitch Perfect 2 (I immediately did after seeing the movie). In additional, the comedic raunchy gags from the first film return with a plentiful scenes of hilarity with character specifics ones like Beca’s vague crush on Das Sound Machine’s female lead singer (played Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) with insults that come out as flattering compliments as well as Fat Amy, who once again delivers some of the most funniest lines in the movie.
Along with its fan service scenes, character favorites have more screen-time with Anna Kendrick’s Beca, Brittany Snow’s Chloe, and Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy carving out the most time and playing pivotal roles in this sequel. Beca’s ambition of being a music producer is furthered examined with her new internship and her dealings with her boss (played by actor Keegan-Michael Key) with Chloe sort becoming the new Aubrey (Anna Camp’s character from the last movie) as she struggles to hold the group together with zealous nature, and Fat Amy is dealing with the repercussions of her wardrobe malfunction and her relationship with Bumper. The minor Bella characters get their moments to shine from Hana Mae Lee’s low talking Lily, Ester Dean’s spunky lesbian belter Cynthia, and Alexis Knapp’s sex-driven Stacie. Even throwaway Bella characters like Jessica and Ashley (played by Kelley Jakle and Shelley Regner) have their one shine moment of being mentioned (which I think was hilarious). Hailee Steinfeld’s Emily Junk is fresh face for the Bellas and for viewers, offering a new perspective of a cappella singing, yet her comic funny bone material is moderately flat in comparison to her colleagues. Speaking of flat, Chrissie Fit’s Flo (another newcomer to the Bellas) is a stereotypical foreigner exchange student who doesn’t offer much to the story or standout performances in singing, but in just meekly illegal immigrant jokes.
The Treblemakers are back, but in a more minor capacity this go around with only Sky Astin’s Jesse, who has a much smaller role in compared to the last movie, and a Ben Platt’s Benji, who has a love interest, the only cast members of the first film’s Treblemakers to return for Pitch Perfect 2 with exception Adam DeVine’s Bumper, of course. Returning to their post are Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as the duo hosts of America’s A Cappella League, bringing another round of their smarmy “A” game comedy remarks to the proceedings. Sons of Anarchy alum Katey Segal plays Emily’s mother / former Barden Bella and, given the fact that she can definitely sing, could’ve had a larger role in the movie. Lastly, there are a couple of various cameos made throughout the film, so I won’t spoil it, but there definitely worth seeing to make you laugh out-loud.
The Pitches are back in Pitch Perfect 2. This sequel embraces the things of which made the first film fun and builds upon them, serving up fan-favorite moments for viewers in the process. While the familiar story elements are pretty much the same and some secondary characters are push aside, laugh-out-loud moments are bountiful and the collaboration of the musical songs in the feature are acca-awesome and a true highlight of the movie. Personally, it was great movie to watch (both visually and musically) as Elizabeth Bank’s and her team did a great job capturing the spirit of the first installment. I wouldn’t say that it beat the original Pitch Perfect, but Pitch Perfect 2 comes close to it. Whether you’re a fan of Pitch Perfect, a fan of a cappella groups or a fan of raunchy comedy remarks, Pitch Perfect 2 has something for you and will surely leave you on a lyrical high note by the film’s ending.