Pitch Perfect 2 (Elizabeth Banks, 2015)
They’re back, pitches! After the success of television’s Glee and 2012’s Pitch Perfect, choirs and acapella groups have moved from their lowly position on the hierarchy of cool to, well, just a smidgen higher. Misfits achieving their musical dreams have struck a chord (so to speak) with audiences, paving the way for this highly anticipated sequel.
Pitch Perfect 2 takes place a couple of years after the events of the first film. The Barden Bellas led by Beca (Anna Kendrick) and Chloe (Brittany Snow) are now three-time national champions. Unfortunately, things go pear shaped when Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) ends up exposing her lady bits in a performance for the President. Suspended from competing at the national level, the Bellas are tasked with winning an international competition in order to be reinstated. Here they’re up against the flawless German group Das Sound Machine, and they need to find their A-game or they’re aca-outta-there.
As with Pitch Perfect, the sequel demonstrates that singing groups aren’t all about the Ave Marias or the mind-numbingly boring hymns we were forced to sing in school. They’re all about Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, Mika, Muse, and even some retro favourites (the cool ones, not the ones your dad likes). One small misstep in the current film is its introduction of a – GASP! – original song. As withGlee, it falters here, because attempts at originals in films/TV shows that mostly concern themselves with cover versions are rarely very good. A scene where a music producer shows interest in original song ‘Flashlight’ feels unrealistic, until you remember that One Direction and Justin Bieber are popular, so hey! Anything’s possible! Thankfully, the film’s soundtrack is indeed mostly covers, with a thoroughly entertaining Riff-Off between acapella rivals the highlight.
This is a film made by women, about women, for women/girls (though that’s not to say that male viewers won’t find something to enjoy here too). Though there are a few boy/girl romances in the mix, this franchise is first and foremost about the sisterhood. Elizabeth Banks, who also stars in the films, takes the director’s seat this time around, with Kay Cannon returning as screenwriter. Contrary to Hollywood’s transparent expectations, this combination looks to be a highly successful one. While a female directing and screenwriting team isn’t always enough to create positive films for women (case in point: Fifty Shades of Grey), Pitch Perfect 2 is a film that celebrates them. However, viewers who are prone to being offended about anything and everything may miss the point.
Pitch Perfect 2, like its predecessor, milks many laughs from a number of stereotypes. There’s the fat chick, the South American exchange student (Chrissie Fit), the lesbian perv (Ester Dean), the sexually promiscuous hottie (Alexis Knapp), the German opposition (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and Flula Borg), and more. While some may take offense to these roles, minority groups are never the butt of the joke (unless you include Fat Amy’s front bum) and the film is not to be taken seriously. The dialogue is frequently hilarious, perhaps none more so in scenes involving Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins’ commentating duo, who practically scream FOX NEWS. Every character has their own running joke, including Beca’s girl crush on her nemesis, Flo’s traumatic background, and Fat Amy’s not-so-secret relationship with Bumper (Adam DeVine). Some of these are recycled from the first film, such as Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) and her disturbing low-volume statements, but they were so good the first time around that audiences should be willing to lap it all up all over again.
As far as this cohort of Bellas go, this will surely be the last we see of them given the film’s focus on moving on and going out with a bang. But according to the rumour mill Pitch Perfect 3 is happening, which will most likely star the current film’s newbie Hailee Steinfeld, who is eleven years Anna Kendrick’s junior. Though she is a treasure, this might run the risk of a new-generation disappointment (will it not learn from Glee’s mistakes?!), but only time will tell. Pitch Perfect 2meanwhile ticks all boxes with its casting. Rebel Wilson lets it rip (literally and figuratively) in an uproarious performance as Fat Amy, and her self-confidence is refreshing. Adam DeVine as her love interest channels Jack Black and manages to match Wilson in the comedy stakes (a duet between the two of them is the funniest scene in the film). Skylar Astin and Ben Platt add some Broadway cred in their Treblemaker roles, with Platt also managing to be adorably hilarious (his replacement lyrics in ‘Baby Got Back’ are golden). Brittany Snow and Anna Camp return with their chipper neuroticism, and Anna Kendrick, the goddess, is her beautiful self-deprecating self. One can only hope that the success of this franchise will help Kendrick’s movie musical The Last Five Years get an Australian release before this reviewer drowns in her own tears due to its omission from local screens.
While Pitch Perfect 2 may not quite be perfection, audiences will be hard-pressed to smother their giggles at a highly amusing script. Add to that some loveable stars and some clever vocal arrangements, and viewers should be singing the film’s praises. Aca-check-it!
This review was first published at Film Blerg