Pitch Perfect 2 | Elizabeth Banks | May 15th, 2015
The Bellas are back, pitches. In this sequel to the surprise hit Pitch Perfect, our favorite college chicks are once again thrown into competition to save the reputation of their a cappella group. Following the early 2010’s boom of female-driven comedies, the original film caught audiences off guard with its unique premise, infectious musical numbers, and colorful chorus of characters. First-time (feature) director and long-time comedy queen Elizabeth Banks has orchestrated this tour-de-force, with Kay Cannon returning to write. But with so much popularity surrounding is predecessor, can Pitch Perfect 2 reach the high notes a second time?
It’s usually important, especially with comedy films, that the ranks of production don’t shift too greatly. We’ve seen this new formula work with the Jump Street series, where there is a sense of unity between the two films, even though there isn’t much to “intellectually” expand on. Pitch Perfect 2 lands solidly into this idea, and the fact is that not every film has to leave you in a puddle of existential goo to be good. While there have been past glimpses of bright comedy from the minds of women, like Mean Girls, the high school/college party film has almost been completely dominated by male perspectives. I don’t think this has ever been due to a lack of bright female minds, but more with the commercial viability and studio big-wig bureaucracy. While the formula isn’t too different, recent films like Bridesmaids shook up comedy for the better, and reminded us that girls can be just as rowdy, funny, and gross as boys. Shocking, right?
Pitch Perfect 2 kicks off with the most absurd, ridiculous, and hilarious skit that essentially resets the Bellas’ claim to fame. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but it involves our beloved ‘Fat Amy’ and relatively well-known politician. All of the other members of the group reprise their roles, and with a more established foundation of characterization, the film feels less focused on just Beca’s story. This lets some of the other actresses (shush Anna Kendrick, we love you) get to strut their stuff. Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Ester Dean, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, Kelley Jackle, Shelley Regner, all return. I won’t spoil some of the cameos, and there are many, but the talents of Reggie Watts are added to the mix. Chrissie Fit and Hailee Steinfeld join the Bellas as new members, and the narrative really revolves around Steinfeld’s character as an up-and-coming youth and artist. Honestly, the entire narrative is completely irrelevant. It’s your typical sports/competitive X/underdog story…like Rocky IV meets Bring it On. We’re not here for the plot. We’re here to laugh and enjoy the music.
The film’s tone and humor take aim at everything and everyone possible. I thought it took some great shots at the whole ‘young professionalism’ culture, where everyone needs a latte in their hand and a $400 outfit to work an unpaid internship. Some of the jokes do get tired near the end, mainly the self-referential jabs. ‘Flo’ is sort of a carbon copy of ‘Lily’ but with a different ethnic background, revealing shocking tidbits about her past. I’ve noticed this pattern before in other comedy sequels, when the writers seem to exploit something successful and ruin its charm (like ‘Brick’ in Anchorman 2). But there are still some very funny moments, and the theater I sat in for an advance screening was in stitches. The music, obviously being all a cappella, sounds great and purveys a sense of originality and creativeness instead of merely remixing Top 40 hits. That seems to be the film’s message, to follow your heart and promote your creativeness. I think it’s a nice, simple message to send.
While it may be a bit formulaic, Pitch Perfect 2 doesn’t skip a beat. It’s hilarious, has some impressive vocal arrangements, and is a worthy sequel to its predecessor. It doesn’t attempt to be anything more than it is, and audiences will love it. There’s not really much more a twig bitch like me could ask for.
Pitch Perfect 2 hits theaters Friday, May 15th via Universal Pictures.