DIR: Elizabeth Banks • WRI: Kay Cannon PRO: Elizabeth Banks, Paul Brooks, Max Handelman, Jason Moore • DOP: Jim Denault • ED: Craig Alpert • DES: Toby Corbett • MUS: Mark Mothersbaugh • CAST: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Katey Sagal, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks
The Bellas are back! Anyone unfamiliar with the first film can easily be brought up to speed with this handy recipe: You take the mismatched underdogs of The Mighty Ducks (but a group of college girls), the subject matter (minus the nuns) of Sister Act 2, the risqué comedic commentators of Dodgeball and the knack for apparently spontaneous choreography and harmony of High School Musical/Glee. I don’t want to oversimplify it, but you may now be fully qualified to claim knowledge of the first Pitch Perfect film, except for the fussy little details of who people are or what actually happens.
It’s about a college acappella group.
Now you’re definitely fully qualified.
Pitch Perfect 2 rejoins the Barden Bellas a few years after the events of the last film and boy, so much has changed. And by that I mean one of the two characters who was a senior in the first film has graduated and moved on and no other character has developed in any respect. The roster of Bellas is pretty much entirely unchanged, with the exception of Flo Fuentes, who is very openly there to serve as the “Mexican, Guatemalan, it’s all the same” stereotype and the new girl, Emily, whose entire function is to replace the new girl from the first film, Beca. This fails somewhat, particularly because Beca is still a valued member of the Bellas but that can be overlooked because she has a fairly bare side story this time and no real character development whatsoever.
The film starts off with the Bellas performing for the president of the United States when an unfortunate mishap onstage leaves the group humiliated, ridiculed and with the future of the Bellas apparently hanging by a thread.
This film is pretty much a blow-by-blow replay of the first film with bigger versions of the same jokes and plot points scattered throughout. The inexplicable competitive riff-off being replaced by… exactly the same thing except in a fairly creepy mansion. The generally obnoxious all-male rival group from the first movie has been replaced with a much larger and more efficient, evil team from Germany (you know they’re evil because their routines use fire effects and they’re only physically capable of wearing entirely black outfits).
The awkward, incredibly needy and persistent forced love story about a geeky guy who likes (stalks) a girl has been replaced by an awkward, much nerdier and persistent forced love story about the uncomfortable magic enthusiast who’s friends with the geeky guy and his courtship(stalkship) of a much younger girl. The plot is far from fresh but it’s the jokes that were really the staple of the first movie and, well, you’ll get to see a lot of those old favourites again. The misogynistic male commentator continues to be a complete pig, which was funny, when the other characters and the audience were rolling their eyes at him together, but the Latina Flo makes constant references to her life in Latin America that reinforce so many negative stereotypes with absolutely no apology. The one joke that was an absolute pleasure to see again was everything said by the hauntingly hilarious Lilly, whose murmurs sound like the stuff of Tim Burton’s small talk and it hasn’t lost its punch.
It’s perhaps not fair to judge this film too much by its plot. This film is there to be enjoyed and there are laughs aplenty. What jokes are used are well executed and the cast is well and truly on point, with the main exception being Snoop Dogg and the Greenbay Packers in a pair of fairly clumsy cameos. Physical comedy walks hand in hand with gross-out laughs and this film really does work, when it stops trying to convince us that it has an (or five) emotionally significant storyline(s).
Pitch Perfect 2 is much less than a follow-up to the first film and more like a very well executed remix of the exact same thing. To paraphrase the film, “It’s not an original, it’s a cover”, but it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Pitch Perfect 2 is released 15th May 2015