Catching Up: Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld, Rebel Wilson, Skylar Astin, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Adam DeVine, Anna Camp, Ben Platt, Flula Borg, Elizabeth Banks, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, John Higgins Clark
Here is a movie that begins with the collegiate a cappella group the Bardem Bellas embarrassing themselves at a public event, and ends with them redeeming their good name at a major championship competition. Oh, and before winning the championship, they welcome a new member to their group who can sing like an angel, and attend an unofficial a cappella face off. No, I’m not talking about the original Pitch Perfect, but its sequel, which covers the same story beats as the original without bringing anything really new to the table.
The embarrassing event that opens the movie this time is due more to a wardrobe malfunction than uncontrollable vomiting (thank God). Fat Amy’s pants rip off during her performance of Wrecking Ball at President Obama’s birthday celebration, and she inadvertently flashes the crowd, front and back. The unofficial face off isn’t set inside an empty swimming pool like the original, but rather in the basement of a creepy dude’s mansion. The new recruit this time is an aspiring song writer named Emily Junk (Hailee Steinfeld), whose mother was a Bella back in the 80s, and who tells us that her father’s last name is Hardon (te-he!).
What’s new here? Not much, honestly. Becca (Anna Kendrick) is secretly interning at a record producing studio, and doesn’t know how to tell her best bud and Bella leader Chloe (Brittany Snow) because she’s so obsessed about the World Championship event coming up. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) has fallen for rival a cappella singer Bumper (Adam DeVine), and in the movie’s most charming moment, performs a solo for him while rowing a boat across a lake. Becca’s boyfriend Jesse (Skylar Astin) is back, although he is given so little screen time that the screenwriters might as well have said he was interning in Osasco for the year. It wouldn’t have made that much of a difference if they had.
The original Pitch Perfect was a charming and very funny movie directed with infectious energy by Jason Moore. The musical numbers were terrific, and while the plot was formulaic, the sharp and likable performances more than made up for that. Pitch Perfect 2 feels like a pale imitation. It doesn’t have 1/10th of the original movie’s energy, and many of the attempts at humor feel forced and flat. There is a running joke, for example, about Becca thinking of something nasty to say to Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), leader of the rival German group DSM, and ends up complimenting her instead. “Your sweat smells like cinnamon!” she shouts at her at one point.
The movie is the directorial debut of actress Elizabeth Banks, who reprises her role with John Michael Higgins as two commentators who attend every event the Bellas perform at. There’s no energy to any of this. The musical numbers are kind of bland, and the climactic competition is especially disappointing. Give how badly the Bellas screw up throughout the movie (at one point, one girl’s hair catches fire during a show), you’d figure that their comeback performance would be something memorable, but it really isn’t. In fact, and this is just my opinion, I thought that the DSM group beat the Bellas by a country mile.
Pitch Perfect 2 has a couple of chuckle worthy moments (such as when members of the Green Bay Packers participate in an a cappella competition), but for the most part, the movie is charmless and boring. Even Anna Kendrick, who was so good in the original, seems glum, like she wishes she were anywhere else but here. Some sequels take the material from the original in new and exciting directions. Then, you have sequels like Pitch Perfect 2, which rehash the formula from the original, and don’t even have fun doing that. What a shame.
Rated PG-13 for innuendo and language
Final Grade: ** (out of ****)
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