Pitch Perfect 2: Film Review
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Elizabeth Banks, Skylar Astin
Director: Elizabeth Banks
The pitches are back in the sequel to the phenomenally popular Pitch Perfect.
After a humiliating command performance at Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform.
But Anna Kendrick's Beca's mind is on other things as she looks to move on from the Bellas, graduate from college and get a life.
Pitch Perfect 2 rarely hits the harmonious highs of the first flick, which perfectly mixed sentiment, warm fuzzies, acapella musical goodness and a deft sprinkling of characterisation as well as some damn funny laughs.
The problem is that this time around as the movie negotiates that difficult second album, the group's already known and so it's more left to the newbie Hailee Steinfeld (whose mum was once a Bella and whose desire is to follow in her shoes) to provide some of the life and vitality as the next generation of the Bellas to come to the ball.
But, it's not quite handled as well, with Steinfeld's Emily feeling very much one-note rather than the whole aria, with not the slightest hint of character coming through for most of the time she's on screen.
Equally, Anna Kendrick's Beca, the slightly acerbic yet eminently likeable character from the first, is forced to the sidelines a little, despite having the only real chance to develop away from the group, thanks to an internship at a music producer's company providing her a lifeline after the Barden Bellas.
Predictably, Aussie comedy behemoth Rebel Wilson gets her fair share of the awkward and offbeat funny lines, from her opening Wrecking Ball turn offending a certain Commander in Chief and precipitating the Bellas' fall from grace. But she's also saddled with a romantic subplot with the first flick's Bumper that really goes nowhere aside from one perfectly executed sequence that wraps it all up, leaving you feeling the movie has wasted too many opportunities.
The problem is this difficult second album doesn't feel like it has that much to the story, as it lurches from one musical number to the next with the flimsiest of threads, with each set piece energetically directed by Elizabeth Banks, delivering the frenzy and high energy you'd expect from music videos. Banks has an astute eye for the comic moments though, and the musical scenes fizzle where the rest of the film fails to crackle.
However, that's not enough to stop the energy levels sagging when the movie heads away and back into the rather underwritten Bellas' quest to regain their position at the top. There's no ebb and flow between these moments and it cripples the feel-good factor as it bounces between yet another excuse to launch into more singing.
There are two sequences in the film that remind you of the glory of the first; the opening dance for the president has the amusement factor of both the Bellas and Banks and her erstwhile co-commentator (and occasionally racist and bigoted) John Michael Higgins delivering the slightly bizarre laughs for maximum effect. The second collects all the girls together at a campfire as they try to re-discover their mojo, with a version of that Cups song and a slapstick punchline that mixes both the sweetness of the relationships and the broader laughs that the first Pitch Perfect captured so perfectly.
By not keeping the gang together, reducing most of the Bellas to stereotypes or punchlines of their own gags or ignoring them completely, this frothy over-long, over-stuffed feels like an excuse to launch Now That's What I Call Pitch Perfect - The Album, whereas in fact the second Pitch Perfect hits too many bum notes throughout.