As per the norm, the summer months have a tendency to brings us a plethora of things guaranteed to draw the crowds…and that usually means sequels. While they aren’t all unpleasant, for the most part we never really asked for them either. I honestly can’t think of anyone who asked for Pitch Perfect 2 it does enough right to be a fun night at the theatre in spite of never quite hitting the magic of the first film.
It’s three years later and the defending champion Barton Bella’s are just about to take their victory lap when an unfortunate accident during a performance for the President of the United States puts a tarnish on their impeccable record. They are subsequently suspended from collegiate competition and rifts in the group are growing as they are all beginning to plan their lives but in order to restore the Bella name, they decide to compete in the world championships where no American team has ever won in order to regain their status and most importantly the right to perform.
While it follows some admittedly predictable beats throughout, Pitch Perfect 2 does more than enough right and keeps this franchise going in an entertaining but admittedly less joyful viewing experience.
Taking over from director Jason Moore, co-star and producer Elizabeth Banks slides into the director’s chair for her very first feature effort and actually shows some genuine skill at it all. It moves at a steady pace and in spite of a flimsy premise from writer Kay Cannon who also returns, the story does have some genuine flow to it. While both Cannon and Banks are obviously aping the beats from the original film, they manage to do it in a way that doesn’t feel forced or obvious. The comedy is still there, but the genuine chemistry and character development isn’t as the movie is ultimately more concerned with generating cameos (which were admittedly pretty funny) rather than crafting a more secure story arc. Even the musical numbers, compared to the first one felt more tacked on and their rivals in the German champions in Das Sound Machine, who almost stole the show channeling their best Kraftwerk or Dieter (from SNL) impression never got to have any fun musical moments. The high quality of the music and the performances is what actually sold the first one and made it so memorable, where as this time out the music was almost an afterthought in favor of the comedy.
It plays with gender roles quite well as almost every man in the film is in the proverbial ‘girlfriend’ role and Anna Kendrick once again leads her ensemble quite well as her Beca is faced with the common uncertainty of the real world staring her in the face at the end of college. She is a legit star and has no problem commanding the attention of the audience as her personality and charm certainly surpass her tiny frame. Not surprisingly Rebel Wilson’s ‘Fat Amy’ gets a little more time in the spotlight while Brittany Snow and the underrated Skylar Astin take more of a back seat to the myriad of cameos we see, while Hailee Steinfeld as the new Bella blood barely registers at all. Thankfully some returning players get to work their magic even more as both Banks and John Michael Higgins were pure gold and even more off the leash in this effort and our favorite Asian Bella Hana Mae Lee hits a subtle home run as Lilly, because we can telegraph her moments which end up to be even funnier as we hear the crazy that comes out of her mouth.
Quite simply, Pitch Perfect 2 is a fun and surprisingly solid debut feature directing effort from Elizabeth Banks that won’t disappoint any of the fans, but it falls short of the genuine magic that the first film created.