Pitch Perfect 2 (***)
Running Time: 115 min
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Alexis Knapp, Hailee Steinfeld and Chrissie Fit.
ACA-SCUSE me but let me just say right from the offset of this review that whilst I enjoyed Pitch Perfect 2, It still felt like yet another needless sequel to a film that never really needed one in the first place. Despite hitting many similar notes to the original, Pitch Perfect 2 never really manages to get the same tune as its as it’s predecessor. Like listening to a rock band’s difficult second album, it’ll remind you what you liked about them; but it’s their first album you’ll always cherish.
Elizabeth Banks (making her directorial debut) takes over from the previous film’s director Jason, working on a screenplay once again written by Kay Cannon. Most of the original’s cast reprise their roles, with Kendrick, Wilson and Co. joined onscreen by newcomers Chrissie Fit and Hailee Steinfeld as the latest additions to the Barden Bella’s. Like so many formulaic sequels the plot merely rehashes everything that worked from the original, only this time everything is much more louder and cruder than before.
Like the opening sequence from the previous film, Pitch Perfect 2 starts with everything once again going wrong for the Bella’s. After an unfortunate ‘wardrobe malfunction’ during a performance at Lincoln Centre, the singing group find themselves branded a national disgrace and suspended from the aca-circuit. In an attempt to rebuild their tattered reputation they set themselves a seemingly impossible task; defeat the immensely talented German group, Das Sound Machine in an international singing competition no American team has won before.
When Pitch Perfect arrived in cinemas back in 2012, it did so with very little fanfare, launching Kendrick as a credible leading lady and introduced many viewers to Rebel Wilson for the first time. Riding on the success of the Glee TV show, this unrelentingly upbeat Jukebox musical showed that girls could be just as funny and crude as their male counterparts, but it also stressed the importance of sisterhood, friendship and teamwork.
This sequel works best whenever it’s rethreading those familiar topics, a short sequence where the group go to a retreat to once again ‘find their sound’, sees the girls slowly opening up to each other about their hopes and fears about life after college. It’s little moments like this that really worked for me and that’s what I wanted more of from this movie, but all too often there’s just too much going on throughout the movie, with too many subplots and celebrity cameos.
David Cross’s bizarre cameo as an eccentric Acapella fan is a perfect example of this, his riff-off party (a rehash of the aca-initiation scene from the original), exists more for the benefit of the film’s soundtrack, rather than it’s actual plot. Even Beca’s (Kendrick) burgeoning music career as an intern at a music label offers only limited returns, at times leaving the film’s central protagonist side-lined as a bit part player throughout the movie.
Unsurprisingly Rebel Wilson’s character ‘Fat Amy’, who stole the show in the original is given much more screen-time this time round, but it’s a shame her character isn’t really given that much to do. The Australian actress has a real comedic flair, but all too often Kay Cannon’s screenplay gives the actress nothing more than fat jokes and toilet humour to work with; but there’s great chemistry between her character and Adam DeVine’s Bumper Allen and they have some great scenes together; it’s one of the few subplots that works throughout the movie, accumulating in a sequence near the end that could have been in Mama Mia.
At times though the gags do get a little repetitive, like the same comedic one-notes served up for both Ester Dean and Chrissie Fit characters that quickly become tiresome. Over and over again their characters spout the same jokes and gags throughout the movie; I get it you’re a lesbian and you’re a Latino –stereotype; you don’t need to keep reminding me!
Despite all it’s flaws, I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t enjoy the movie. Just like in the original commentators John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks) had me in stiches with their inappropriate commentary and interchanges throughout the film’s musical numbers and it’s impossible not to love the wonderfully weird and softly spoken Lilly (Hana Mae Lee). Once again her character is just so delightfully weird, spouting a string of truly bizarre sound bites and great one-liners.
Even though this sequel never replicates the feel-good attitude of it’s predecessor, there’s an admirable sense of confidence about it. Many viewers will find it hard not to leave their cinema seats with a smile on their face after the grandstanding finale, even though for the second time , the writer once again disavows the ‘Rocky Rule’. It’s great to see a female centric feature, proving to be such a huge success at the box-office, but in my opinion it’s just a shame that it can’t be on a more original project than this.
It’s not that Pitch Perfect 2 isn’t enjoyable by any means; it’s just a sequel to a film that never really needed one in the first place and it’s screenplay isn’t strong enough to prove me wrong. Much like last year’s under par Anchorman sequel, it’s the original, not the sequel that many fans will more than likely come back to watch, over and over again.