If you go into Pitch Perfect 2 expecting a unique cinematic experience, you’re going to be very disappointed. Director Elizabeth Bank’s sequel to the 2012 popular girly flick Pitch Perfect is just like the original. In fact, it’s basically the same movie.
Luckily, that’s not a bad thing.
Pitch Perfect 2 is set three years after the first film. The a-cappella group, The Bellas, are riding the tide of success right up until an embarrassing onstage mishap sees them suspended and shunned. In an attempt to redeem themselves, the group enters an international competition, only to be hampered by the German competition and their own fumbling attempts to have lives outside of a-cappella. To claw their way back to the top, The Bellas first have to find their way back together as a group.
The greatness of this movie comes down to the fact that it clearly knows exactly what people loved about the first one and how to deliver it again. The characters are lovably insane, the script is stuffed with witty zingers and self-aware humour, and the singing is seamlessly choreographed and performed. Structurally it’s the same film about spirited underdogs rising to the occasion, but seeing as that’s the entire point of every movie ever made about a rag-tag bunch of misfits, it gets a free pass.
Unfortunately, while the film does all the same things right, it also does the same things wrong. Most of the Bellas are one-note stereotypes defined by a single trait; aka the control freak, the weird one, the gay one, the slut, and the new guy. The only ones to get any real screen time or development are protagonist Beca (Anna Kendrick) and break-out character Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), who gets a larger role this time round. And even Amy feels like a missed opportunity, as her story arc is played as one long joke instead of a chance for Wilson to flex her acting muscles and infuse sincere emotion into her performance.
Oddly enough, it’s the side characters that are the most entertaining. The hilariously inappropriate commentators Gail and John (Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins) steal the show every time they’re onscreen. The antagonistic German team leader Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) is brilliant just for her ability to derail Beca’s trash-talking into flustered odes to her inhuman perfection. But it’s Beca’s snarkily abusive new boss (Keegan-Michael Key) who defines the movie’s real dilemma. As he so cuttingly points out, does Beca want to spend the rest of her whole life re-mixing other people’s songs? To achieve her goals, she will have to grow beyond a-cappella, and it’s this internal struggle that carries the story forward.
Beyond this, the real star of the movie is the a-cappella, which unquestionably surpasses the original film with its energy and imagination. The only thing which may puzzle audiences is the characters’ insistence at calling Flashlight original when it’s a well-known Jessie J song that was released in April. Though written specifically for the movie, the song was so wildly popular it completely eclipsed its source material. So when the ‘originality’ comes up as a plot point (which it does, several times) just smile, nod and go with it.
All up, Pitch Perfect 2 doesn’t break any new ground, but it doesn’t backslide either. It knows exactly what its strengths are and plays to them. It’s a barrel full of laughs with quirky characters, great comedic timing and excellent slapstick humour. If you don’t enjoy singing or musicals, definitely give it a miss, but if you loved Pitch Perfect, get some friends together and go enjoy Pitch Perfect 2.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10