Friday, May 15, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2

Based on the book by Mickey Rapkin 2012's Pitch Perfect was an occasionally fun, if wildly inconsistent, story glorifying a bizarre college subculture where a capella groups were the biggest celebrities on a college campus. Picking up three years later, loner Freshman Becca (Anna Kendrick) has grown into the Senior leader of the three-time defending a capella champions who face new adversity when a complicated stunt goes wrong at a public event.

Barred from competing, touring, or defending their national championship by the announcers (John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks) who cover the sport (and also run it now?), the Barden Bellas' only chance for redemption is to become the first American group to win at the World A capella Tournament.

If you thought it was bizarre seeing colleges go wild over a capella singing in the first film you haven't seen anything yet as, in typical sequel fashion, Pitch Perfect 2 goes bigger this time around. The results are much the same as the first film with awkward romantic subplots and an odd storyline designed to make Becca the outsider of the group once more as she is the only member of the Bellas planning for life after college.

The memorable pool scene from the first film involving the various college groups doing a sing-off is replaced with a bizarre party in David Cross' basement in a sequence over-packed with cameos which director Elizabeth Banks struggles to put to good use. The scene is a microcosm for the entire film in that it produces some good music and laughs but also stretches out far too long, and puts characters in (only sometimes intentionally) awkward situations without ever truly paying off.

It also doesn't help that the choice of the film's villains is a group of cliched Germans (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Flula Borg, and a dozen or so interchangeable extras) is so underwhelming. Although Becca's obvious crush on their leader is a nice running gag (at least until it runs out of gas, which doesn't stop the script from continuing to drill the dry well for more laughs).

Most of the cast of the first film return to reinhabit their one-note characters. With Aubrey (Anna Camp) having graduated and moved on, Chloe (Brittany Snow), who has been purposely failing the last class she needs to graduate for years to continue performing, steps in as the most obsessed member of the group. Rebel Wilson returns as the equally funny and annoying Fat Amy, and Hailee Steinfeld joins the Bellas as their only new member who will, of course, add what the group is missing at precisely the most important moment.

Because of the odd training montages, the German villains, and the trip overseas to compete, Pitch Perfect 2 feels an awful lot like the first film with a good helping of Beerfest stirred into the mix. The result is a slightly better film than the original, thankfully without the projectile vomiting, that still suffers from many of the problems of Pitch Perfect which includes the false premise that anything Rebel Wilson does on film is instantly comic gold while nearly breaking its back to constantly remind us how cool and talented Becca is, even compared to those working in the music business for years.

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