Pitch Perfect 2
Pitch Perfect 2 feels tailored to be crowd pleasing and it works.
I’ll admit it. I didn’t see the first Pitch Perfect for a long time because I really had no interest in it. But then a lot of friends started talking about it, and ultimately my sister convinced me to watch it. And it was actually pretty damn good and extremely fun. It wasn’t life changing or incredibly deep, it wasn’t superbly filmed or acted, and it wasn’t out to push any bounds of what film could be. But it was a crowd pleasing, humorous, and surprisingly touching musical that worked and worked well, and when its inevitable sequel rolled around, I can genuinely say I was excited to go see it in the theaters. And I wasn’t disappointed. Pitch Perfect 2 has all the same triumphs and failings as the first film, and, like its predecessor, it also makes for an extremely fun night at the movies.
Pitch Perfect 2 begins with the Barden Bellas on tour, but when a disaster happens, they find themselves cast out of the a Capella world with only one chance to regain their former glory. To do that though, they’ll have to find themselves again and do it in time to beat a German powerhouse singing group at the World competition. Like the first movie, it’s a musical that manages to combine heart with a sense of humor.
The story of Pitch Perfect 2 feels carefully crafted to be a bigger and better version of the original film. Events play out in a very similar fashion, and there are few surprises. Luckily, it also focuses on a few key characters and delves into their struggles in approaching graduation which keeps Pitch Perfect 2 from feeling like a simple rehash of the first movie and gives it some new social aspects to poke fun at. This is done well enough to give the movie a great heart and open up several new arenas for it to satirize. It’s fun and funny, it manages to recapture most of the appeal of the original, and at the end of the day it leaves you with the warm, fuzzy feeling of a good sports movie. That said, anything you thought you wanted more of in the first movie is definitely expanded on in Pitch Perfect 2, sometimes to great effect, but occasionally to the film’s detriment. There multiple times where it feels like the filmmakers were just trying too hard to make something funny or expand on the original and too many of these moments fall flat. Still, Pitch Perfect 2 is great entertainment, and if you liked the original, the sequel is definitely worth watching.
Technique & Direction
Pitch Perfect 2 certainly won’t blow your mind with artistic direction or anything unique, but the filmmaking is solid and everything works. It’s paced well, never gets boring, and the shots and the structure all serve their purpose without being intrusive. Considering that this is Elizabeth Banks’ big-screen directorial debut, Pitch Perfect 2 is a resounding success. Creating a good movie takes a lot of skill and care, and Banks succeeded in creating a crowd-pleasing, box office success her first time out the gate.
In this year’s testosterone packed big blockbuster season it’s awesome to see an all-female core cast come together so well and create such an engaging experience on screen. Rebel Wilson is once again hilarious, and the filmmakers gave her ample opportunities for improvisation that paid off well. Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow again prove they have a strong screen presence, and they play well with newcomer Hailee Steinfeld who seems like she’s being groomed for the frontrunner role in future installments of the series. The male roles have been reduced dramatically, and it works well both within the film and on more of a meta level for pushing the film’s ideals of female independence and self-sufficiency.
With a soundtrack that reached the top spot on the Billboard Top 100, it’s pretty tough to say anything negative about the soundtrack. Like its predecessor, Pitch Perfect 2 relies on remixes of popular songs for its musical numbers and, for the most part, these are once again impressively well done. The song choices are well-picked, and my only complaint is that where the original felt somewhat unique, Pitch Perfect 2 feels a little more tailored to its audience.
What All of This Means to You
If you liked the first Pitch Perfect, you’ll find plenty to love here. Pitch Perfect 2 shows that the series still has a lot to say, and there’s very little like it out there.
The Bad: Tries too hard to be a bigger, better version of the original. Some of the humor falls flat. More predictable than the first movie.
Pitch Perfect 2 left the assembly line amidst a mass order of blockbuster productions without a hitch. It contained just enough ingredients, and was shipped out and forgotten as it did. Whether or not the product ended up faulty, was irrelevant. As a sequel an audience had already been safeguarded, and so too it’s economic returns. In one of those age old training montages, the frame is sectioned off into maybe ten or eleven squares with each their own course of action. So much actions littered about the screen so inconsequentially that you can’t help but be overwhelmed. Then the position of those sections shift constantly, and the compositions within them change too; and it can’t help feel like a nauseating attempt to clutter over the fact that it’s plot is perhaps the most wrung out Hollywood formulas ever.
It’s no help that the script is so shamelessly careless. Even it’s deus ex machina feels especially indolent. Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) pants ripping during a performance is the catalyst that’s supposed to fuel the already thin plot to the end. I’m okay with when a comedy rests on the laurels of ridiculousness, and a self-aware joke to drive things forward. But not when that joke falls flat the moment it’s told. The pant ripping provokes the Bella’s suspension from the Aca-Circuit. But wait there’s a loop hole, and the Bella’s can earn there way back by winning the International Competition and competing against more intimidating foes. The stakes are high.
Now I am not a die-hard fan of the prequel, I thought it was an okay romp. So as I use it in comparison do not confuse the glaring contrasts as golden recognition. Pitch Perfect had a charm going for it. Not just inherently because of Anna Kendrick, but also because it brought forth some new elements like A Capella, and a couple of young talented faces to the screen like Rebel Wilson. It also had a good sense of community, college, and friendship, best represented in it’s friendly A Capella Riff-off scene that took place in a dried out pool. Pitch Perfect 2’s best scene is a similar no-stakes, all for fun, A Capella battle, that came out of left field and leaves everything else in the dust. It’s no coincidence that Pitch Perfect 2’s ‘best’ moments come when it wanders from it’s tired plot structure.
But the vast majority of the sequel’s content squanders away in a flood of offensively easy jokes, and Anna Kendrick appears here surprisingly as a non-presence, moving as emptily as the rest of the film does. More on those jokes. All of the films non-white characters operate as one individual, un-evolving quip. The film literally reduces these characters to one, reoccurring, and impressively lame joke. It gets to the point that you'll know exactly whats going to come out of these characters mouths before they say them, and they all build to nothing. They don't even increase in extremity, they just accompany different situations, or vary in their wording. The joke never changes. Flo’s (the Cuban character, Chrissie Fit) only dialogue consists of her comparing the harsh conditions of her past, to the privileged problems that surround her. Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) the black character is singled out for her sexuality, and evidently can only remark on her attraction to the women around her. Lily (Hana Mae Lee) the asian character returns with her whispery weirdness, and never branches out from the one note joke she was limited to in the first film. The only characters given a sliver of dimension (and oh how I use that word in it’s most minimal measure), happen to be it’s white characters, Beca, Amy, Emily, and Chloe. And it feels very much like those cliques that are predominately white, but allow some minority color for the sake of their own entertainment and ‘diverse’ appearance.
Even the German enemy team ‘Das Sound Machine’ goes un-salvaged. Instead they flaunt about in all black, and we’re supposed to giggle when they pronounce American lyrics with Z’s instead of S’s, and V’s instead of W’s. There’s also plenty of humor regarding poop and how one must go about wiping it. It even indulges in more “A Ca” puns, which are actually just words thrown after the end of that phrase. A cameo by David Cross as a wealthy A Capella obsessor, is brief but welcome, and Keegan-Michael Key (from Key and Peele) sucks what he can from a relatively tepid Boss/Intern relationship. Rebel Wilson is always game, but she deserves better material than this. Her best parts feel very natural, and improvised. She’s got great comic timing, and it’s a shame it's wasted here on the typical self-depreciating weight jokes.
Unfortunately, Pitch Perfect 2’s A Capella sequences are not it’s saving grace. Even it’s opening number left me numb and indifferent. All but the aforementioned pre-game A Capella battle go down with one group singing at once, and they bore in comparison. In one instance the Bella’s try too hard to overcompensate with fireworks, stunts, and other tomfoolery, and it results in an embarrassing failure. The commentators remark “The Bella’s seem to have forgotten who they are” Oh my the irony.
It is conceivable that I have been too scathing, indeed this is not my type of film (though I enjoyed it’s prequel marginally) Hollywood’s faults cannot be singled out, but they can be condensed into a two hour feature with big, blustering, extravagant artifice blowing out the seems. And I always end up comparing these films to fast food. This one’s like that fat, shitty burger, that you’d forget if it weren’t for the excrement treads on your butt cheeks. It’ll do.
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