In the crowded market of book-adapted teen movies, few stand out quite like Pitch Perfect. The 2012 hit, based on the documentary-style book by Mickey Rapkin, took an eye-roll worthy plot involving a group of college girls singing a capella in a tournament against other similar groups in their school. What could’ve been a been-there-done-that teen comedy was actually a hilarious romp filled with interesting characters and a good story. The worst thing about the sequel to the impossible-to-live-up-to original is that it’s just a few notches lower than its predecessor. So, in the end, not so bad after all.
As Pitch Perfect 2 opens (thanks to the marketing team for only using “We’re Back Pitches” as a tagline instead of the actual title), we’re once again met by the famous characters introduced to us in the first film. There’s Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Chloe (Brittany Snow), Cynthia (Ester Dean), Stacie (Alex Knapp), and a handful of others. This time around, they’re performing for none other than the president himself, and I’m not entirely sure about this but I’m close to certain that this is the first time President Obama has had a cameo in a movie (not including background clips of prior speeches in movies such as Killing Them Softly).
Where the Barton Bellas go wrong is in the first few minutes, which are kicked off by the always welcome Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberg (Elizabeth Banks, who also directs this film) and John Smith (John Michael Higgins), the two hilarious commentators that came close to stealing the show from the Bellas in the first movie. Here they’re introducing the viewing audiences to the Bellas, who are providing a live a capella show for Mr. and Mrs. Obama. It all goes wrong when Patricia (Fat Amy) has issue whilst being suspended in the air. Hanging upside down, she gives the first couple quite a show (an unintentional show, if it makes any difference).
So, having exposed her vagina (this is a set of words used in the film, so don’t lash out at me) to the president, the Bellas are informed that they are eliminated from American a capella performing. But these are the Barden Bellas for god’s sake, so there’s no way you can expect them to stay away from singing. They take a huge risk by competing in the international competition, which is risky simply because no American team has ever won. “They hate us,” Higgins’ John Smith tells the Bellas through a snorting laugh that is followed by a similar one from Elizabeth Banks’ Gail. But in the face of criticism, they go for it, and I can assure you that I wasn’t complaining once.
Being a big fan of the 2012 film, I was eager to sit down and watch the Barton Bellas perform again (the movie really did have a good set of musical numbers, and so does this one), but I was also eager to just see them interact. As is the case with Avengers: Age of Ultron, I wanted to sit down and see explosions and action and superheroes flying around and the Hulk smashing stuff but what was more important? Seeing those characters interact. Watching Joss Whedon’s script that understood each character and how each character would interact with another in a real like situation come to breathing life. And I got that in Avengers 2, and Pitch Perfect 2 gives us more of those smaller conversations between the characters that we fell in love with the first time around.
In this second installment, we’re introduced to a new player. Emily Junk-Harden (Hailee Steinfeld) is a “legend,” coming from the bloodline of one of the Bellas’ founding singers. Steinfeld, a wonderful up and coming actress who has already received an Oscar nomination for her work in True Grit, returns to her Begin Again side to sing for the Bellas in a strong supporting performance. Her blossoming romantic relationship with Benji (the magic guy, played by Ben Platt) is one of the best things this movie has going for it.
As the Bellas compete in the international a capella tournament, there is much emphasis on what is coming next as well. Much of this movie involves Beca secretly getting an internship at a recording studio (working for a recorder played by an actor I won’t spoil for those who like surprises). She gets her chance at pitching an idea for how to make a certain recording artist’s rendition of a Christmas album hip and unique (and I won’t spoil who this recording artist is either) and it’s all quite funny.
All of this is directed by Elizabeth Banks, who doesn’t do anything wrong but also doesn’t do anything to make any kind of personal stamp whatsoever. It is her first directorial feature, but I couldn’t help but hope for a little more style and not so much bland. But it doesn’t take away from the movie, which isn’t a great sequel but is still a fun time and a welcome couple of hours spent with the Barden Bellas.
1 hr. 55 mins.
Rated PG-13 for innuendo and language
Starring Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, and Hailee Steinfeld
Written by Kay Cannon
Directed by Elizabeth Banks