Mark Reviews Movies

Pitch Perfect 2


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Adam DeVine, Ben Platt, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Chrissie Fit, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Alexis Knapp, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks, Katey Sagal, Anna Camp, Flula Borg

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for innuendo and language)

Running Time: 1:55

Release Date: 5/15/15

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Review by Mark Dujsik | May 14, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2 isn't exactly a rehash of its predecessor, save for where it matters. This is a sequel that possesses the same errors in judgment of the original and stumbles across a few new ones.

The first of the new ones, naturally, is simply the movie's existence. It suggests that there is more to the story of a ragtag bunch of misfits in a college a cappella group than we've already seen and that we have a desire to spend more time with them. The story once again sees the group preparing for a big competition while their weird personalities clash in between rehearsals, so no, there really isn't much more to their story. Those off-putting personalities are the same, too, so no, there really isn't much desire to go through all that again, either.

The first movie was helped immensely by the presence of Anna Kendrick as the levelheaded newcomer to the group, and her character returns as the singers' leader. She also has the most rational motive of the entire movie: to get the hell away from the Barden Bellas and move on with her life.

Kendrick, a performer of immense talent and an actress of seemingly limitless charm, appears to have taken that motive to heart in her performance, which brings us to the second major instance of a new problem with the sequel. Kendrick is oddly—or appropriately, depending on one's perspective—distanced from this material, although that's not entirely her fault. The screenplay Kay Cannon doesn't give Kendrick's character much to do beyond going through motions similar to the ones of the first movie—being torn between following her dreams and helping her oddball group-mates for some reason (The newcomer here is Emily, played by Hailee Steinfeld, whose dream is to be part of the group—a case study in raising the bar one sets for oneself).

The movie recycles jokes, too, but then again, that's primarily because the characters were and remain one-joke entities in the first place. Here, even those jokes feel half-hearted. It's not that the movie doesn't have anything new for the characters to do. It's that the movie can't even commit to allowing the characters to do the only things they do.

Take, for example, Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), the quiet one of the group who whispers disturbing non sequiturs about herself without any prompting. In the first movie, she was the most consistently amusing of the eccentrics, but in this one, well, what else is there to do with her?

If such is the case with the most steadfast characters, imagine how trying the more irritating ones become. The movie opens with "Fat" Amy (Rebel Wilson) experiencing a wardrobe malfunction at a presidential birthday concert that leaves her dangling upside-down above the stage of the Kennedy Center, unintentionally mooning the audience and then spinning around until the other side is on full display.

The appeal of Amy is a mystery. Indeed, the concept of this character makes no sense. She calls herself "Fat Amy" as an attempt to take away the primary insult people would throw her way. It's empowering in a way, but then the movie treats her as the butt of so many jokes—when it isn't making a multitude of jokes about her butt or its flipside.

The commentators, played by Elizabeth Banks (who also directed the movie) and John Michael Higgins, return, primarily so that his character can make a slew of bigoted statements that are supposed to be funny for some reason. We learn here that they're also the heads of the national a cappella society, and after Amy's televised embarrassment, they've banned the Bellas from touring or participating in national competitions.

The loophole for the plot is a forthcoming world championship, and there's nothing in the Bellas' suspension to prevent them from competing in that. Their primary rivals are a German group, so prepare for plenty of overemphasized accents being passed off as humor. It is, admittedly, funny how Beca tries to insult the female head of the rival group, played by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, but can only compliment her.

This is, once again, a musical of sorts, although the concept of its best number is lifted wholesale from the first movie. In it, a collection of a cappella groups (The funniest moment is here, as "the pride of Wisconsin" shows up unexpectedly) participates in a round-robin style sing-off, with each group picking up with a new song in the middle of the previous one. What's strange is how little interest Pitch Perfect 2 has in its music. The movie can't get through one song without some unwelcome interruption, and if a musical can't even trust the music, what's the point?

Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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