You’d be absolutely aca-mazed at the number of acapella related puns there are out there. Like a lot of really bad puns.
The Bellas are back, and they are better than ever. After being humiliated in front of none other than the President of the United States of America, the Bella’s are taken out of the Aca-Circuit. In order to clear their name, and regain their status, the Bellas take on a seemingly impossible task: winning an International competition no American team has ever won. In order to accomplish this monumental task, they need to strengthen the bonds of friendship and sisterhood, and blow away the competition with their amazing aca-magic! With all new friends and old rivals tagging along for the trip, the Bella’s can hopefully accomplish their dreams.
It’s the law of diminishing returns in full force for Pitch Perfect 2. With each new film the stakes have to be greater or the audience just won’t care, right? Well this time around we take a lovable indie darling full of heart and soul and stuff it so full of hollywood it’ll hit you right in the feels. In Elizabeth Banks first shot in the directors chair she takes on a sequel to an already wildly popular cult hit, for which she was a producer and co star of. For a directorial debut, a sequel is not necessarily the smartest career move, but Banks’ comedy background serves her quite well, and if nothing else Pitch Perfect 2 does not want or funny moments.
With a film that paid it’s dues primarily via home formats and cable television, Pitch Perfect developed a cult following and became a cultural phenomenon, best of all it was actually pretty damn good. The characters were all extraordinarily charming, the chemistry was delightful and the comedy was sharp and poignantly delivered. It’s absolutely no surprise that a sequel was greenlit similarly to fellow cult hilt Kickass. Hoping to avoid the same pitfalls Kickass 2 ran into however, Pitch Perfect 2 aims higher than it’s predecessor, but ultimately falls short of the original, and can’t quite repeats it’s charm. Pitch Perfect 2 is anything but perfect, but it’s still a valiant effort not short on the funny.
What Banks did as the director this time around was create a much prettier, more dynamic aesthetically pleasing film, that lacks some of the baser appeals of the first. With a nack for comedy we still get a film that is ravenously funny through out. Banks reprising her role as one half of the snide acapella commentators alongside fellow returnee John Michael Higgins as the better half. The two provide a sizzling banter and some over the top play by play, that keeps pace with the original. We get a familiar cast of characters all of which we have grown to love and are happy to revisit. We also get a host of new friends to laugh both with and at in various situational hijinks. Given that this is a sequel to a popular film, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the inevitable big time cameos. Most of the time these brief pop ups are fairly cheeky and serve no purpose in the story. Well that is the same here, but who cares because seeing Clay Matthews and a gang of the Green Bay Packers is devilishly hilarious anyway. David Cross also shows up and provides a few distinct laughs at his own expense as the unique acapella enthusiast hosting an underground competition. We get to see Snoop Dogg being Snoop Dogg as he makes the most gangster christmas album of all time, and even Robin Roberts shows up as a former Bella. In any effect, these surprise drop ins don’t hinder the story as much as anticipated, and are actually really damn funny.
The word of the day is more. More lights, more action, more singing and dancing. More everything, more is the guiding principle for this film. What there is unquestionably more of is Rebel Wilson. Reprising the role that brought her into the mainstream, we get to see a lot of her character in the sequel. The lusty “Fat Amy’ sparks into frame with an imaginative high flying act at the Kennedy center where she infamously tears a hole in her far too tight spandex and exposes her lady bits to the president. The scene has already been overplayed in the trailers and isn’t really as funny as it thinks it is, playing more like the annoying guy laughing at his own jokes at a party. Meant to be a satire on celebrity wardrobe malfunctions, the boisterous and flamboyant Wilson makes it more of campy slapstick then sly farcical humor. The whole thing almost becomes worth it to see clips of journalists coining the term “Muffgate.”
The misuse or lack of use of the films two best characters from the original are a clear burden. Anna Kendricks Beca being the focus of the original, becomes no more than just another caricature in the circus here, spending most of her time sneaking off to her secret internship. Some of the best parts of the original are between her and on screen love interest Skylar Austin’s Benji, unfortunately Benji and the Trebelmakers take a back seat, becoming footnotes in this film, they are reduced to moving scenery. The intro of Hailee Steinfeld’s (True Grit) Emily reveals the issue of miscasting. Her character, with the last name of Junk, is just a little to on the nose to be funny. Steinfeld is a brilliant young talent, but it appears comedy is not her forte. She struggles to keep pace and is more purposely clunky and awkward than the script calls for. She appears to be trying just a little too hard and it shows.
Everything builds to a climax between the Bellas and new rival Das Sound Machine, a group of German champions captained by the statuesque Birgitte Sorenson. There are a few awkwardly funny exchanges through out between Beca and the “DSM” captain, especially the strangely erotic comments made by Beca herself. The final battle doesn’t exactly live up to the hype. With the international competition playing like a stereotype filled homage in the vain of “It’s a Small World After All.” In the end after the dust settles, my vote would have gone to Das Sound Machine, but the film takes a more predictable approach.
A sequel like this,with a first time director is expected to be given some leeway. People, especially young adult females, are wholly expected to turn out to this in droves, likely dwarfing the superior Mad Max Fury Road. The hopes is that the sequel can duplicate the charms of the original, and instead it tries to replicate it, and the difference of the two is palpable. There is a repetitive formula at hand here similar to the Hangover Franchise. Banks takes on the old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” in her debut, and at times that is surprisingly passable. The insertion of some real comedy juggernauts like Keegan-Michael Key and David Cross actually pay off huge dividends. Key, of the duo Key and Peele, arguably provides the films most comedic rant when he roasts a hipster and even manages to knock the mystic hipster sauce sriracha. The movie is funny, really funny, and there are a lot of laughs to be had, but it sacrifices some of it’s heart to do so. Banks’ Pitch Perfect 2 is a movie with an attitude and energy that isn’t quite as aca-mazing as it’s predecessor, but it’s still funny, semi-shiny summer entertainment.
3/5 Not Bad Bro