Pitch Perfect 2 review
A shining, sequined sequel
Character actress Elizabeth Banks (Zack and Miri Make a Porno, The Hunger Games franchise) co-stars and makes her full-length motion picture directing debut with surprise box office champion Pitch Perfect 2, the sequel to the 2012 movie following an all-female college acapella group. While the director manages to add a flair of her own style by introducing a plot relatively different to the first installment, it’s Banks’ maintaining the (no pun intended) rhythms of the original that make her film a worthy sequel. On its opening weekend, the comedy-musical won the box office with just north of $70 million as it unseated Avengers: Age of Ultron from the top spot and beat out the highly-anticipated Mad Max reboot to prove that audiences seek a light change-up to action/ adventure during blockbuster season and that spending 15-20 percent (depending on whose figures you read) of your production budget on a Super Bowl ad really works.
Banks managed to wrangle the entire 2012 principal cast and the dynamic is more the same as the actresses playing the Barden Bellas out-sing, out-dance, out-act, and generally out-perform their male acapella counterparts. Academy Award nominee Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, 50/50) stars again as Becca, however, she’s graduated from the new kid on the block to group leader and must work hard on the side for future, personal goals in addition to busting her hump to lead the Bellas. Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids, Pain and Gain) returns to play Fat Amy and set the plot in motion when she accidentally exposes herself in President Obama’s presence during an acapella performance that threatens to erase the Bellas for good.
The cameos make Pitch Perfect 2 as memorable as the first installment. Keegan-Michael Key (“Key and Peele,” The Heat) shares a few scenes with Kendrick as Becca’s short-tempered, condescending boss. Much like his work in She’s the Man, David Cross (“Arrested Development,” Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) injects his unique brand of humor to draw out some much-needed laughs as an absurd and wealthy host to underground acapella competitions. Snoop Dogg appears as himself to sing in a studio booth for a scene, allowing Becca to flex her musical talent. Even linebacker Clay Matthews and a handful of Green Bay Packers show up on screen as themselves to perform for Cross’s character.
Unfortunately, the cameos carry most of the film’s humor as many of the male members of the principal cast fail to garner a laugh beyond comedic actor Adam DeVine’s (“Workaholics”) usual over-the-top-Jack Black schtick and John Michael Higgins’ (Yes Man, “Happily Divorced”) outrageous broadcasting comments. The plot also quickly spirals out of hand as the girls are forced to compete in a contest colloquially referred to as “Worlds” (in reference to a world-wide competition) that unfortunately make it feel like an episode of “Glee.” The plot also spends little time to resolve the characters’ individual problems, choosing to wrap anything regarding conflict resolution into a convenient montage and spending most of the runtime on cameo gags and musical numbers. What the film really misses, however, is the chemistry of the 2012 film. These girls hardly seem invested in each other’s lives anymore as they seek the next chapter after school. Academy Award-nominee Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, 3 Days to Kill) plays the newest Bella and nobody in the talented group seems to care about or listen to her.
Despite a lack of chemistry and reliance on cameos to amplify the humor, Elizabeth Banks helms a worthy sequel with plenty of talented music numbers and hilarious performances giving full value to the price of a ticket. Anna Kendrick hands the franchise reigns over to Hailee Steinfeld as Pitch Perfect 2 out-performed its box office competitors with song, dance, and jokes during a season when most movies feature more than a few flying bullets. A second sequel seems certainly attainable especially since co-star Wilson recently hinted as much during press rounds.