Monday, September 28, 2015

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 2

Pitch Perfect 2
Directed by: Elizabeth Banks.
Written by:  Kay Cannon.
Starring: Anna Kendrick (Beca), Rebel Wilson (Fat Amy), Hailee Steinfeld (Emily), Brittany Snow (Chloe), Skylar Astin (Jesse), Adam DeVine (Bumper), Katey Sagal (Katherine), Anna Camp (Aubrey), Ben Platt (Benji), Alexis Knapp (Stacie), Hana Mae Lee (Lilly), Ester Dean  (Cynthia Rose), Chrissie Fit (Flo), Birgitte Hjort Sørensen (Kommissar), Flula Borg (Pieter Krämer), John Michael Higgins (John), Elizabeth Banks (Gail), Snoop Dogg (Snoop Dogg), David Cross (Riff Off Host), Keegan-Michael Key (Beca's Boss), Shawn Carter Peterson (Dax).
Unlike seemingly everyone else in the world, I didn’t much care for the surprise 2012 hit Pitch Perfect, which made acapella popular and propelled the delightful and talented Anna Kendrick to new heights of stardom. For that, I guess, I should be great – because it’s always great to see Kendrick in a movie, especially one that utilizes her singing skills. Overall, I just thought Pitch Perfect was a rather dull, predictable teen movie, with some really good acapella numbers, which I didn’t know if I was supposed to laugh at or love – but it was probably both. I watched the film a second time with my wife, and enjoyed it a little bit more, but not much.
Now, three years later, comes the inevitable sequel – which I think pretty much commits every sin a sequel can possibly make. It tries to jam in all the characters from the first movie, even if the story doesn’t really require them, it tries to add new characters as well, even if we don’t care about them, it has way too many plot threads, none of them are handled particularly well, and basically is tries to do everything the first movie did – just much bigger this time around. Admittedly, this does lead to some very good acapella performances – and the riff off this time, has become ridiculously larger than it was the first time, knows it, and embraces it. That sequence, and pretty much everything involving the Bellas’ new arch rival Das Sound Machine, was everything the sequel should be – and really was quite amusing, and the singing was great. Everything else in the movie – not so much.
Set three years into the future, the Bellas are three time defending US Collegiate Champions (and yet have seemingly lost only one member – but no matter) and have redefined the way the world looks at acapella. The movie begins with them performing for President Obama – when a wardrobe malfunction shows the world all of Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), shaming the Bellas, and perhaps getting them banned from competition. There is only one shot for them – they have to win the Worlds. But how can they possibly be the German super group Das Sound Machine? Meanwhile, Kendrick’s Beca already has one foot out the door as an intern at a record label, which requires her to stretch her musical chops. And a legacy Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) has just joined the group – and perhaps could be their future.
There are moments to like about Pitch Perfect 2 to be sure. I did like the music – perhaps even more than the first film. But there really isn’t a lot else here. Kendrick, usually the most energetic and likable of performers, pretty much seems bored here – as if she’s moved on from this, and wants to leave it behind. Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy pretty much does the same schtick as last time, with diminishing results – not least of which because it feels like, at times (particularly in the opening) the film goes from laughing with Fat Amy to laughing at her. That’s still preferable to how it treats another member of the Bellas – a Guatemalan, whose every line is about how awful her life used to be. If this was an attempt to put how piddly the problems of the Bellas’ are, than it fails, because basically the film just mocks this character. There is a fine line between jokes about racism, and racist jokes, and I’m don’t think Pitch Perfect 2 is always on the right side of that line.
Apparently, there will be a Pitch Perfect 3 – because when your movie makes $180+ million at the box office, of course there will be. The film is the feature directing debut of Elizabeth Banks, who also co-stars (alongside John Michael Higgins, who has grown far more sexist, and less funny since the first film) – and to be fair, she does an adequate job with it. The film moves at a brisk pace, and isn’t painful to sit through. But it’s also fairly uninspired – as most sequels are. Pitch Perfect 2 doesn’t aspire to be anything more than the first film on steroids. At that, I guess, it succeeds – so if you’re not a grouch like me, and enjoyed the first film – well, then you probably saw this film months ago, didn’t you?

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