Director: Elizabeth Banks
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Adam DeVine, Ben Platt, Keegan-Michael Key with John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks
Plot: Disgraced, the Bellas find themselves unable to defend their title, unless they can impress on an international level.
Sequels are the kind of evil we used to loathe, but now kind of expect, especially when a comedy like Pitch Perfect breaks all expectations and triumphs on an international level. Of course, there was going to be a sequel. This one wasn’t necessarily unwanted either, a welcome feeling growing at the thought of spending more time in the addictive world of acappella singing. However, the best sequels are the ones that grow naturally, a clear storyline emerging from the aftermath of the previous entry. Pitch Perfect 2 doesn’t actually have that, instead falling into the category of ‘sequels made to make money, little else’.
The signs of the tired sequel are all there. Unsure how to follow up an origin story, now the Bellas are united, strong and top of their game, writer Kay Cannon does the lazy option and simply opens his film dragging them back down to square one. The film opens almost identically to the first, with a strong Bella ensemble wandering on-stage, this time Barack Obama in the audience, only for the show to go horrifically wrong due to an embarrassing accident. The acappella world, eager to brush the nasty incident under the carpet, eject the Bellas from competing in college or auditioning new singers. The end is nigh, if it wasn’t for that one loophole that requires the band beating impossible odds and taking on the world’s best groups in a showdown in Copenhagen. As soon as that lazy plot device is raced through, it is simply business as usual with the characters needing to further hone their talent, strong but untamed, characters butting heads. Basically the writers mistook our desire for another Pitch Perfect movie to mean that we wanted exactly the same movie again. Of course, in being a sequel, it is understandably bigger and better. There is a stronger emphasis on inter-character banter here, the smaller jokes between the members of the band taking precedence over story. While this means that the likes of cult favourites such as Lilly, the odd Asian girl, or the openly lesbian Cynthia, get far more to do than last time, this gags steal from much needed time to flesh out the plot. The German villains of the movie, Das Sound Machine, are moderately fun, yet kept in the shadows, not allowed the constant screen time the Treble Makers were gifted with last time around. Other characters are either side-lined totally, the story simply not needing them but too proud to say so (Skylar Astin only comes alive when singing here), or forced to totally U-Turn on their characters, as an excuse to keep them in the cast. Adam DeVine’s bad guy last time, bailed on the film halfway through, the writers understanding the finale needed stream-lining, but now he is rammed back into the narrative, because he was loved by the fans. Gone is the despicable cheekiness and replaced with a lovesick puppy, simply because Kay Cannon seems to believe that sequels require every character to pair off with someone. Also, Rebel Wilson is painfully allowed out of her box. Her humour is an acquired taste (is the nicest way of putting it), and Pitch Perfect managed to tone down her crass comedy and hone the stronger points of her personality. It was Rebel-lite, but this was a good thing in the grand scheme of things. In Pitch Perfect 2, she almost rams poor Anna Kendrick out of the movie, the middle act of the film her show, as she serenades a lover with a solo while canoeing or threatens to wipe her ass on the side of the tent after using the toilet. Pitch Perfect’s warm comedy was nice while it lasted…
Pitch Perfect 2 is a major disappointment, because you really do want it to be good. The main emphasis of the story is about how, while the Bellas have one more shot at a title, half of the gang are seniors and, bluntly put, have other things to worry about. The level-headed Anna Kendrick is sneaking off to an internship every night, because she has a shot at the big-time in her grasp. Deep down, she is happy with the Bellas fading into obscurity. It’s a nice message, especially seeing as the scenes between Kendrick and Keegan-Michael Key are some of the strongest. As Kendrick hands in her mix-tapes full of DJ style mash-ups that went down well in college, Key tells her that in the real world, you need to bring more to the table. It is a strong message that you feel should have been made centre-point, only the writers were asked to pile in more gags with the supporting cast a draft later. Elizabeth Banks upgrades from cast member to debut director and keeps things ticking over. The music moments are as good as you want them to be, Das Sound Machine putting on astonishing light shows, while the Bellas finale song has the expected amount of heart. Hailee Steinfeld’s singing voice is a welcome addition to the series. However, while they keep everything entertaining enough, there is none of the creativity of the last film. Where is the delightful answer to the Cup Song or the split screen singing competitions that made each scene of the original feel fresh and punchy? Banks replicates, but does not create. Several scenes feel awkwardly copied and pasted from the original film’s script, sometimes made bigger and ‘better’ as is the rule of sequels, but ultimately nothing is new.
Final Verdict: A case of typical sequel syndrome. Yes, it’s fun to spend time with the characters and music, but the heart has definitely left the building.