Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Anna Camp, Alexis Knapp, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks, Brittany Snow, Katey Sagal, Hana Mae Lee, Skylar Astin, Adam Devine, Ben Platt, Birgitte Hjort Sorenson, Flula Borg, Shawn Carter Paterson, Ester Dean.
Pitch Perfect, a feel good film about an all girl a cappella group finding success, was a surprise box office hit in 2012, grossing over $113 million from a modest $17 million budget, so it’s not surprising that producers have given us this sequel. What is surprising though is that they have taken their time over it rather than rushing out a quick formulaic sequel that essentially is a repeat of the first film. Here the producers and screenwriter Kay Cannon have taken the material in a slightly different direction without tampering too much with the elements that made the first film work so well.
In the three years since the first film, the Barden Bellas have become a successful a cappella singing group. When the film opens they are performing at the Lincoln Centre in front of a VIP audience (and there is even a cleverly edited cameo appearance from President Obama himself). But Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) suffers a rather embarrassing wardrobe malfunction that shatters their reputation, and makes headline news. The Barden College administration and the a cappella association are quick to respond, and ban them from competing at any level. They also prohibit them from auditioning new members.
Is this the end of the road for the Bellas? Their only hope for redemption and restoring their reputation lies in competing at a world a cappella singing competition in Copenhagen. No American team has ever won this prestigious competition. In recent years the competition has been dominated by the slick and well oiled German group Das Sound Machine, who quickly establish an intense rivalry with the Bellas. But the Bellas are also in danger of becoming fragmented, and have to work together to find their rhythm again.
Beca (Anna Kendrick) is planning for life after college and has gained an internship at a record production company, a job she keeps secret from the rest of the group. And there is the arrival of Emily (True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld), an over enthusiastic legatee whose mother (played by Katey Sagal, from tv sitcom Married With Children, etc) was one of the founding members of the Bellas back in the day.
Making a welcome return to the commentary box is the wonderful team of John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks, whose wry commentary and observations were such a delight in the original. Higgins is a highlight with his superb comic timing and his droll delivery of some sharp, politically incorrect one-liners. Banks steps behind the camera as well for this one (she previously directed one segment of Movie 43), and she demonstrates a good eye for physical comedy, and she also has an understanding of the dynamics of the group.
The film is loaded with many subplots, but it seems a little crowded and overlong for what it has to say. And there are some flat moments along the way. Wilson does her usual comic shtick here, improvising much of her own dialogue, and while some moments are very funny, a lot of what she does is cringe worthy and unfunny.
The music has always been an integral ingredient of Pitch Perfect, and here audiences will find themselves humming along to a number of familiar pop songs that have been cleverly reworked as a cappella covers.
Anyone who has seen any of those increasingly formulaic and bland dance competition movies in recent years will have some inkling of where Pitch Perfect 2 is headed from the early stages. But there is still a bit of fun to be had in getting there.