Review: Pitch Perfect 2

Pitch-Perfect-2-Plot-Details-Barden-Bellas

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.

That’s right.

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.

Ronan Daly

12A (See IFCO for details)

114 minutes
Pitch Perfect 2 is released 15th May 2015

Pitch Perfect 2 – Official Website

 

Share

Cinema Review: Pitch Perfect

 

DIR: Jason Moore   WRI: Kay Cannon  PRO: Elizabeth Banks, Paul Brooks, Max Handelman   CAST: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Elizabeth Banks

Trends seem to have an unpredictable life span. The entertainment industry will clearly jump on any bandwagon, ride it (and drain it) for all it is worth and sadly still be making films in that narrow niche area long after the rest of the world has moved on.

No prizes for guessing that it’s the shadow of Glee that hangs over this college based comedy about competitive acapella singing. It’s hard for the unwieldy release of a feature to compete with a weekly TV show and still rival it for relevance. In fact, based on my cursory knowledge of Glee (I swear to God it’s cursory) I know that this film doesn’t just cover the same territory as the TV show but it also covers some of the same songs.

That said, it’s a pleasure to report that Pitch Perfect is not some dead-eyed cynical cash in. Sure it’s surprising that it needed to be based on a book in the first place but it does have a sparky undercurrent of genuine wit and is populated by amiable performers with Anna Kendrick leading the cast with her now customary charm. She plays Beca who is reluctantly attending a college where her father is Dean. Determined to remain anti-social while covertly pursuing a career as a DJ, she is reluctantly recruited to the Bellas – an all-female acapella group lead by the highly strung Aubrey (Anna Camp).

Aubrey’s conservative musical choices are boring the bejasus out of judges, choir commentators and members of her own vocal group. There’s a recurring gag about the choir endlessly reprising Ace of Base’s ‘The Sign’ to the muted despair of audiences. Predictably with Beca’s established fondness for remixing and ‘mash ups’, the two girls are on collision course. Although in terms of dramatic stakes, the battle for supremacy is a bit too gentle at times.

Complaining about corny or cringey scenes in a film like this is mainly redundant. Most of the time it’s the exact effect that the filmmakers are aiming for. The smarmy male rivals from the same campus provide plenty of such moments. On a weaker note, (ahem) there’s a regrettable reliance on projective vomiting for negligible comedic return. If anything elevates the film, it’s the impressive ensemble female cast with Rebel Wilson shining as the self dubbed Fat Amy. There’s also a hilariously soft spoken Asian girl who continually confesses terrible things at a volume only dogs could hear.

Musically, the film offers few highlights. Even Beca’s supposedly superior musical taste seems remarkably mainstream and unsophisticated. Remixing ‘Bust a Move’ may be a connective reference to the same song’s use in her breakthrough film Up in the Air but it doesn’t establish her own character in this film especially well.  However, her initially faltering version of ‘No Diggity’ that eventually clicks with her troupe is a mini-triumph. Elsewhere, my ears might be deceiving me but the actual live performances seem to quickly abandon the core concept of the music just being formed from vocals.

There are a few other incidental pleasures in the film too. Producer Elizabeth Banks casts herself as one of those ‘Best in Show’-type commentators who undercut the on-stage sweetness with a dose of acid reality. Though in an odd aberration and massive oversight the film doesn’t actually fully establish who she and co-host John Michael Higgins are actually talking to. They don’t seem to be speaking to the audience in the arena or to TV cameras so who exactly are they addressing their quips to? Each other? Maybe they’re just two lunatics with laptops who wandered in.

There’s further accidental amusement in the casting of Kendrick & Co who are all clearly a decade too old to be playing college girls. Still, even these choices add an extra air of enjoyment to a film that could easily be picked apart by nit-picking but hey, it’s hard to be too down on it at this time of year. If you know what to expect, you should have a good time. If you know it’s not your bag then steer clear.

James Phelan

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

112 mins

Pitch Perfect is released on 21st December 2012

Pitch Perfect  – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siEHekc-1oE

Share