The first Pitch Perfect film was such a memorable experience owing to how surprisingly unique and enjoyable it was. It had the look of a Mean Girls in Uni on the surface but director Jason Moore provided a thoroughly charming film with such an endearing cast amidst the conceit of a joyous acapella underworld. The sequel, this time directed by Elizabeth Banks, appears to be a recycling of the much-loved bits of its predecessor whilst also relying on much more humour as against character development and storytelling that marked its predecessor.
Banks does a good job of keeping Pitch Perfect 2 quite enjoyable and it is certainly funnier than the first film but it now has the tag of being and an acapella film and not a film about the people in acapella which is an important distinction. There is a lot of fanfare around the culture of acapella which suddenly en vogue and we also get some of the clichés that worm their way into sequels these days; bigger and flashier sequences along with a retreat and a trip to Europe.
My biggest gripe with Pitch Perfect 2 is the lack of character development, especially in the case of Beca played by Anna Kendrick who honestly looked like she didn’t have time for the film. Beca was the outsider freshman who took the all-girl Barden Bellas and the capella world by storm in the first film is now a senior looking to the future beyond her graduation seemingly at the expense of her sisterhood. She has secured herself a promising internship under a hilarious hipster hating producer played by Keegan-Michael Key and she hides this fact from Bellas leader Chloe (Brittany Snow) who is still committed to the Bellas in her seventh year of college seeing as she intentionally fails Russian literature to continue singing.
The film opens in glitzy fashion with the Barden Bellas performing in front of the Obamas in a show highlighted by a crass wardrobe malfunction from Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy. What follows is shame for the Bellas as they are kicked out of the choral academy and barred from acapella performances of any kind. A loophole provides the Bellas with a shot at redemption as the world cup of acapella in Copenhagen beckons but in their way are the fishnet sleeved Das Sound Machine from Germany ticking every stereotype in the book as far efficiency of ze German machine is concerned.
Probably the most unwelcome effect of the reduced presence of Becca is the extra screen time it affords Fat Amy who is handled with very little restraint by Elizabeth Banks. She is in the midst of a romance with Bumper (Adam DeVine) and she’s reluctant to move on from the booty call stage of the relationship to actual commitment and it’s all a tad passive to be honest. Amy’s real purpose appears to be as the conduit of slapstick gags many of which are just polished versions from the first film and others which simply fall flat.
Some of her jokes do land but they were few and far between and the same could be said of large portions of the film with numerous telegraphed gags that we may have grown old but I did enjoy myself anytime Elizabeth Banks was onscreen reprising her role as the acapella commentator with her co-commentator played by John Michael Higgins who sees it fit to drop numerous spiteful sexist quips in a clever change of pace for the film. Like I said earlier this film is certainly funnier Pitch Perfect but that organic factor seems to be missing and I could almost see the checklist being marked during filming with bits from the low talking and extra creepy Lily (Hana Mae Lee) has her moments to the lesbian gags to the showdown sequence akin to the night time empty pool meet in the first film which admittedly holds its own – Lauryn Hill’s Doo Wop found its way in there and that put a wide grin on my face.
The film has a newcomer in Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) who’s a bit of an anomaly like Beca was in the first film because of her desire to introduce original material into a cover based art form and this point serves up a gag that I laughed at way more than I should have. If there is a sequel to this film, Steinfeld is probably going to be at the centre but as things stand the film is probably in danger of turning into its own version of Step Up.
Banks’ directorial debut is still way ahead of films in its genre (telegraphed doesn’t mean unfunny) and most of my gripes with this film are grounded in the high expectations I carried into the screening. Laughs are aplenty and the capella performances, though well worn, will still fascinate.