CINEMA RELEASE: PITCH PERFECT 2
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Elizabeth Banks, Hailee Steinfeld, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Katey Sagal, John Michael Higgins
Classification: M (Sexual References)
Review by Peter Gray
When the original ‘Pitch Perfect’ was released in 2012 I doubt many were expecting the impact it would ultimately land. Basing itself around the ‘Glee’ phenomenon that was (at the time) culturally relevant, the film both lampooned and honoured the untapped world of acapella performance groups, and the surprisingly fierce competition that came with the territory. As it solidified Anna Kendrick as one of her generation’s most likeable performers, and launched our own Rebel Wilson into prominent stardom, the film took on a life force of its own – one many were unprepared for but were admittedly happy to embrace.
As is the case with most successful film ventures, a sequel was almost immediately greenlit following its handsome box office return and whilst a second visit isn’t entirely necessary, ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ proves a welcome reunion for Kendrick and her cohorts. Taking its cue from its predecessor by opening with a disastrous performance – instead of blowing chunks during an Ace of Base number, this time around we are treated to an unsightly wardrobe malfunction to the tune of Miley Cyrus – the Barden Bellas face extinction when they are suspended from competing in the national championships. Thanks to a trusty loophole (got to love convenient plot devices) the Bellas learn because of their reigning champion status they are automatically accepted to compete in the World Acapella Championships, and if they can win (something no American team has ever done) they will be reinstated. Problem solved?
As the Bellas face their biggest competition in the physically imposing German ensemble Das Sound Machine, led by a statuesque blonde whose aesthetics catch Kendrick’s usually cool-and-collected Beca off guard to the point of complimentary insults (“Your sweat smells like cinnamon” she so confusingly barks), and over-eager new recruit Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) looks to infuse the group with her own stamp of originality, ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ plays to its strength by embracing key elements from the first film without recycling to the point of desperation; the acapella riff-offs, the snappy retorts from Fat Amy (Wilson), even the beloved “Cups” song. Perhaps best of all is the return of John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks (also serving as director) as the wry commentators whose snappy remarks on all things acapella give the feature a little more bite than expected with the former’s dialogue a wicked blend of sexism and racism that highlight the surprising bravery of screenwriter Kay Cannon.
Whilst there’s no shortage of genuine laughs, the film feels a little uneven in its storytelling as the addition of Emily acts as a plot formation that ultimately doesn’t add much weight. Steinfeld is an absolute delight in the role, but her character is underwritten and there’s too much time devoted to her quirky romance with oddball magician, and fellow acapella performer, Benji (Ben Platt), time that would’ve been better spent exploring the friction between Beca and the Bellas’ tightly-wound leader Chloe (Brittany Snow). Also reserving serious screen-time is the bubbling romance between Fat Amy and former-acapella-superstar-turned-campus-security-guard Bumper (Adam DeVine), the sexual tension continuing to billow from foundations laid in the original to the point of a serenade of Pat Benetar’s “We Belong” atop a canoe.
Whilst ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ doesn’t perhaps top the original, it’s a sequel that at least matches it in terms of enjoyment and over-the-top ridiculousness. As to be expected the soundtrack is addictively catchy, and is likely to reignite interest in the forgotten pop songs of yesteryear, and thanks to a cast that embrace their surroundings, it’s a joyous film experience that revels in its political incorrectness and thrives on its unashamed sense of heart and soul.
My rating: 3.5/5