Pitch Perfect 2
Directed by: Elizabeth Banks
Written by: Kay Cannon
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Katey Sagal, Birgitte Hjort SÃ¸rensen, Flula Borg, Hana Mae Lee, Skylar Astin, Adam Devine, Chrissie Fit, Alexis Knapp, Ester Dean, John Michael Higgins
Rated PG-13 | 115 Minutes
Release date: May 15, 2015
Pitch Perfect was the unexpected hit of 2012. The film took the world by storm with its hilarious collegiate a cappella groups covering of foot-tapping chart topping top 40s songs, witty humor, and its simple yet sweet underdog story. It was rather easy at the time to write the film off based on those things alone, but because it was just so much fun to watch, the Pitch Perfect became one of the top box office grossing films. Three years later, we are now getting a sequel that was expected to be an exciting follow-up to the original. Unfortunately, it falls short of that. Still, Pitch Perfect 2 is every bit as cheery as its predecessor, it just doesn’t know how to express itself like the original film.
Here Elizabeth Banks makes her directorial debut after having produced the first one. Using a script from Kay Cannon (who also returns), the sequel makes a few changes, with some of the original characters looking towards a future beyond collegiate a cappella singing, while others are just stepping foot into it.
With Barden Bellas now barred from performing at a cappella competitions at the national level after an embarrassing performance in front of President Barack Obama, the ensemble must win the world championships – a feat that no U.S. team has ever accomplished – in order to restore their reputation and compete back at nationals. Yeah, it’s a bit confusing, but it’s a minor thing really.
The problem is the film’s pacing. There isn’t a sense of a linear storytelling. Subplots seem to be randomly thrown in for the sake of filling up a runtime. There’s Beca (Anna Kendrick), who wants to be a music producer; Chloe (Brittany Snow), who purposefully kept herself in school because she doesn’t know anything else but collegiate a cappella; Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), the shy Freshman with dreams of singing with the Barden Bellas; and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), who can’t express how she truly feels for Bumper (Adam Devine). The film seems to be confused on which one of the plots or subplots it should be focusing on, almost glossing over them entirely just so that they can get another chance to do a sing-a-song. It almost feels unfocused.
That being said, the cannon’s humor is still very much there. The jokes hit their mark. Newcomers Steinfeld, Flula Borg, and Birgitte Hjort SÃ¸rensen feel like they fit in, each of them bringing something refreshing to a comedy sequel that could have gone stale very quickly. Steinfeld is the eager young freshman who wants to follow in her mother’s (Katey Sagal) footsteps, while Borg and SÃ¸rensen make the Barden Bellas play the Bella’s global rivals, Das Sound Machine or DAS. Together, the two make the Bellas feel inferior with their superior and uniformed songs and making their competition feel sexually confused. Even their sweat smells like cinnamon.
However, Beca has a hugely reduced role. In the previous film, she was clearly the lead, and because there are so many subplots in the sequel, there is no real lead; everyone is just part of a group, and it starts to look like each of the characters is desperate for screen time.
Banks makes a worthy directorial debut. She clearly was determined to make the theme of “legacy” stick with Steinfeld as the one who will possibly carry on more sequels, while the already established characters are moving on with their lives. That theme also hits home during the finale. Banks does go bigger in terms of locations and cameos. From the simplest pool parties to massive outdoor stages, the director doesn’t short-change any of the musical numbers. But it all starts to come together when the Bellas need to find their “voice” by heading out to a bootcamp led by none other than the no-nonsense Aubrey (Anna Camp).
Pitch Perfect 2 doesn’t quite hit the emotional high notes as its predecessor. Perhaps that’s because the film pulls its punches and doesn’t want to take as many risks as the first one did. Maybe its just because it was even more predictable then the original. The film also proves that comedy sequels are one of the hardest things to do. While it doesn’t quite fail, it doesn’t quite succeed either. Pitch Perfect 2 just keeps on singing its heart out even if it does hit a few bad notes.