16th May2015

‘Pitch Perfect 2′ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Anna Camp, Alexis Knapp, Ben Platt, Skylar Astin, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Adam Devine, Katey Sagal, Ben Platt, Chrissie Fit, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Flula Borg, John Michael Higgins | Written by Kay Cannon | Directed by Elizabeth Banks

pitch-perfect-2-cast

Given the fact that the first film was such a success with audiences across the globe, in particular inspiring people across the world to recreate Anna Kendrick’s cups song on post the videos on YouTube, it’s not surprising that a sequel to Pitch Perfect was in order. But where to take the story? After all the first film was – if we’re honest – little more than a cash-in on the Glee/mash-up craze of the time. And on top of that the first movie had a finite ending as the Barden Bellas found success in the A Capella National Championships… So there really was only one way to start this film – with the Bellas losing it all and starting from scratch as they did in the original film; bringing the story full-circle and leaving Pitch Perfect 2 open to tell yet another underdog story. Only this time its on an international scale.

After an incident featuring Fat Amy’s vagina and the President of the United States, the Barden Bellas are banned from competing in any national a-capella championships and taken off their victory tour. In order to clear their name, and regain their status, the Bella’s take on a seemingly impossible task of winning an international a-capella championship no American team has ever won. Ever. Will they do it? Er, given this is the same underdog story as we got last time, what are the odds on them succeeding?

Whilst I enjoyed Pitch Perfect 2 immensely, it does have one rather large issue. The elephant in the room if you will. And that is the entire film feels forced. The storyline is forced, the comedy often forced, the characterisation most definitely feel forced. It’s like everyone was contractually obliged to appear in the film and contractually obliged to have a certain amount of screen time, a certain amount of “funny” lines… Even the new addition to the Bellas, Hailee Seinfeld’s Emily Junk (yes that is the characters surname, there’s even a line to how her father’s surname is Hardon – hard-on, junk, geddit?) feels like she has been ostensibly included in the film just as a plot device for Beca, not as a person in her own right.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love about Pitch Perfect 2 – the music and the choreography is on point as usual, and the mash-ups work just as well as they did in the first movie. If anything it’s the songs the, come the films finale, that save the film. Well that and the tremendous performances of Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and Flula Borg as the lead singers of Barden Bellas’ rivals, German a-capella group DSM (Das Sound Machine). DSM and their over-the-top, techno infused a-capella performances are truly one of the highlights of the movie; and their confrontations with the Bellas are central to why audiences will want to keep watching during the “lesser” moments of the film. After all, everyone wants to see the underdogs win over their evil rivals – especially if those rivals are Germans! Apologies to any Germans reading this…

Surprisingly, Pitch Perfect 2 does not (unlike a lot of its Hollywood brethren) shy away from un-PC humour. John Michael Higgins’ announcer-turned-podcaster John gets to spout some offensive, racist, sexist and completely politically incorrect lines and, frankly, I found it refreshingly un-PC. A packed cinema screening seemingly agreed with me, for his portions of the film had people in laugh-out-loud stitches. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat in a [UK] cinema and heard an audience as loud as the one at the screening of this film, the comedy really struck a chord with those in attendance… And that’s the real difference between Pitch Perfect and its sequel – this time round the laughs were louder, the comedy more in your face and the jokes a LOT funnier. Foregoing the “romantic” portion of the rom-com genre the series has been pegged with, Pitch Perfect 2 ups the comedy ante, with humour that goes from American Pie style gross-out to Three Stooges slapstick and everything in between.

And that’s the saving grace of this Pitch Perfect 2. The laughs. For the story is light, the characters one-note but the jokes? For the most part they work (David Cross’ bizarre overly-camp sing-off host aside, although without him we wouldn’t have the Green Bay Packers a-capella group). If not for the humour, the crazy German A-Capella group and, of course, the musical numbers there would – in all honesty – be little reason to recommend this sequel. A sequel which, despite my protestations to the latter, I actually really, really enjoyed – moreso given the fantastic climactic number the Bellas perform at the championships, which is a rousing finale that leaves you wanting more. But hey, maybe let’s not drag this story out for a third film eh?

Pitch Perfect 2 is in cinemas across the UK now.

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