I like Pitch Perfect 2 more for what it represents than as an actual cinematic experience. It stars multiple women of various shapes and sizes, races and creeds. It was directed by a woman, and did very well at the box office. It’s pleasant up to a point, and the musical numbers are fun and infectious; but, to quote the late, great B.B. King: the thrill is gone.
I enjoyed the first one, which was sweet and funny with a great cast and memorable tunes. The sequel has more memorable tunes, but is less sweet and much less funny than the first time around. The cast, for the most part, tries, but there are too many subplots and the performers are spread too thin across the stories.
Too many story lines, you say? The movie is crammed with a national championship, a world championship, a secret singing contest hosted by a crazed millionaire (played by a comedian in an effective cameo), a trip to some kind of leadership building summer camp, a couple of love stories and at least three characters sharing main character status. The sequel sort of stars Anna Kendrick, again, this time torn between singing with the Barden Bellas and her desire to become a big-time music producer. I say the film sort of stars Kendrick, because the film also pushes a new character front and center, played by Hailee Steinfeld. Steinfeld portrays Emily, a Barden Bellas legacy who desperately wants to become a singer.
I don’t know if it was because Kendrick’s role seems so reduced and edited down, or if her heart wasn’t in it, because the joy in her performance doesn’t seem to be there. Same with Steinfeld, an actress capable of enthusiastic and charismatic performances (see her work in the recent Coen Brothers’ True Grit), but she’s dry and dull here. Once again, Rebel Wilson is the real star of the film as Fat Amy (or is it Fat Patricia?), who brings much needed life into this movie. Like Bluto Blutarsky, Fat Amy is a hurricane, a raging id who bulldozes through the proceedings. Wilson and Adam Devine, back as the conceited singer Bumper, have delightful chemistry together.
Most of the actresses who were such comic delights in the first film, such as Hana Mae Lee as Lilly, the seemingly sweet girl who mumbles creepy things under her breath, Alexis Knapp as Stacie, the overtly sexual songstress and Ester Dean as Cynthia Rose, the closeted singing dynamo, are reduced to very limited roles. It seems odd that director Elizabeth Banks would severely cut down such key comedic supporting roles.
There are some legitimately good musical numbers, such as Wilson’s interpretations of “Wrecking Ball,” and, much later, Pat Benatar’s anthem “We Belong Together,” and the Bella’s final number at the big climactic showdown is deservedly epic. In addition to Wilson and Devine, Keegan-Michael Key is funny as Kendrick’s manic boss, and Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins get some good laughs in their returning roles as the exceedingly inappropriate announcers.
Pitch Perfect 2 is just another example in a seemingly never-ending parade of so-so sequels of good movies.
Pitch Perfect 2. Dir. Elizabeth Banks. With Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Adam DeVine, Anna Camp, Katey Sagal, Ben Platt, Alexis Knapp, Hanna Mae Lee, Ester Dean. Written by Kay Cannon; based upon characters created by Mickey Rapkin. Cinematography by Jim Denault. United States.