Review: ‘Pitch Perfect 2’

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Plot:  The Barden Bellas are back pitches!!!  After a live performance at the Kennedy Center in front of the President goes disastrously wrong, the Bellas are expelled from performing in any a cappella showcase or competition.  Their only shot at redemtion is to win the A Capella World Tournament, a competition that’s been dominated by the German team for years.  With graduation and the real world looming can Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), and newcomer Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) come together, find their sound, and save the Bellas?

Review:  I found the original Pitch Perfect to be a refreshingly entertaining and funny film.  It wasn’t your typical date night “chick-flick” and the movie provided plenty of laughs for both men and women.  While the sequel doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, it contains a sufficient amount of laughs and musical performances to entertain.  Anna Kendrick resumes her role as the feisty and spirited Beca, who’s become somewhat disenchanted with a capella and the Bellas in general as graduation draws closer.  Instead she’s focused on a hot new internship at a recording studio that she keeps secret from her fellow Bellas for…reasons?  Honestly, it’s never really made quite clear.  I guess ostensibly it must be because she sees the Bellas as a thing of the past whereas record producing is her future.  Most of the rest of the group doesn’t see it that way, especially Chloe (Brittany Snow) who’s failed several classes over the last few years just to stay on at Barden and be a Bella.  Bit of a plothole there I suppose, but this is a musical comedy not “Game of Thrones.”

Strangely enough some of the funniest movements of the film occur in the confines of Beca’s internship.  Seminal actor/comedian Keegan-Michael Key steals the show as Beca’s boss Residual Heat.  (How great is that name for a record producer?)  He’s constantly berating his inept employees.  Key’s lines had me busting a gut.  The line, “Say one more hipster thing and I’m gonna stuff you in your vintage Bassoon case!” had me in stitches.  A particularly memorable scene with Snoop Dogg was quite hilarious as well.

Of course,  Pitch Perfect 2 doesn’t deviate much from the tropes the audience is familiar with.  There’s the budding romantic relationship between newcomer Emily (a strong performance by Hailee Steinfeld) and loveable goofball Benji (Ben Platt)), the retreat where the Bellas have to “find their sound,” the “evil” opponent in a German a capella group that somehow causes sexual confusion among the Bella members.  (Don’t ask it’s hard to explain.  But funny nonetheless).  And of course there is a refined version of the Riff Off from the first film.  The Riff Off scenes are some of the funniest in the entire movie mostly because of comedian David Cross who is at his David Crossiest in this part of the movie.  Somehow this scene also involves members of the Green Bay Packers and a giant gong but oh my God is it funny.

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That’s not to say that Pitch Perfect 2 hits all the right notes.  Far from it.  Some of the dialogue is clunky at times and the character of Jesse (Skylar Austin) gets virtually no screentime or development.  The romantic relationship between Bumper (Adam DeVine) and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) feels forced and unnecessary, especially a scene involving Pat Benatar’s “We Belong.”  Also as funny as John Michael Higgins was as John Smith in the first movie, his character gets quite annoying here.  The “you guys can’t do this because you’re women” joke gets pretty one note after a while.  And while I did like Steinfeld’s role as newcomer Emily, her “revealing hidden talents” story is pretty cliché.  I mean God the name of her original song is “Flashlight.”

Having said all this there is a lot to love about Pitch Perfect 2.  For first time director Elizabeth Banks it was a solid debut.  The singing and dance scenes were shot with amazing precision and Banks definitely knows the crowd she’s playing to.  There is actually a great self-aware moment where the Bellas are having a pillow fight and Beca says, “You know you’re setting women back like 50 years right?”  Not sure if Banks came up with that idea or screenwriter Kay Cannon, but regardless I’m glad she kept it in the film.  I’m interested to see where Banks’ directing career goes from here.  It’s obvious something like Pitch Perfect 2 is right in her wheelhouse.  I sincerely hope she tackles something outside of her comfort zone the next time up.  If money is any indicator of sequels, (and it usually is) then Pitch Perfect 2‘s performance at the box office means we will undoubtedly get a third installment.  Whether or not Banks will be a part of the third film in a directorial capacity remains to be seen.

While I wouldn’t say Pitch Perfect 2 carries an Adele-like performance, it’s far from Rebecca Black.  As far as musical comedies go you could do a lot worse.

My rating:  7/10

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