Written by Kay Cannon / Directed by Elizabeth Banks / Starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Hailee Steinfeld
John: This is what happens when you send girls to college.
Make no mistake, PITCH PERFECT 2 is for people who love to sing, for people who know the joy that can be derived from making music with your mouths. This is clear from literally the onset of the film when vocal exercises are the first thing we hear before we see a thing on screen, followed by voices coming together to harmonize the theme music to the Universal film logo. Before the melody is finished, we cut from the logo to everyone’s favourite professional a cappella podcast hosts, John and Gail (John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks), rounding out the final notes. And with that, fans of the first film will know their beloved Barden Bellas are in very good hands.
The particular hands I’m referring to are actually Banks’s. Banks goes from producer to producer/director for the follow up to the original sleeper hit and proves herself to be a cunning comedienne both in front and behind the camera. PITCH PERFECT 2 is only slightly off a note or two from its predecessor but that is almost inevitable given the sequel itself is inherently unnecessary. We are catching up with this mismatched band of a cappella ladies not because there was more to their story but rather because people really enjoyed spending time with them to begin with. And the whole gang is back, from rebel rouser Becca (Anna Kendrick) to team leader Chloe (Brittany Snow) to cardio-phobic Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson). They are joined by legacy member, Emily (Hailee Seinfeld), whom, try as I might, I just cannot get behind.
PITCH PERFECT 2 follows an oddly similar trajectory as the first film despite having a completely different plot. The Bellas embarrass themselves wildly when performing for the President and are subsequently banned from competing and performing in the US. Finding a loophole in their punishment, they make a deal that if they win the world competition, then they can be reinstated. If they don’t, and no American team ever has, the Barden Bellas are over. This won’t impact most of the current members as they are all graduating but a long standing legacy would be over, which obviously cannot happen. This means intense practicing, sing off’s with the main competition and a cappella only parties, followed by bus trips and competitions, all of which framed the first film. The familiarity doesn’t take away from the laughter or enjoyment though.
If they’re going to win “Worlds”, all of their focus and energy will be required but one key member’s head is not in the game. Becca, who is still seeing Jesse (Skylar Astin) but we barely see him in the film, has scored an internship working for a hot music producer (Keegan-Michael Key) that is taking her time away from practicing. Kendrick is still very much a key part of this film but she is no longer driving the action forward or anchoring the film, which takes away from its weight, or the bass line if you will. PITCH PERFECT 2 throws more focus in the direction of the Wilson and Steinfeld storylines, which are perfectly fine storylines, but it just makes everyone feel more or less peripheral and makes the overall theme a little more scattered than necessary.
I was mixed on the first PITCH PERFECT film when I first saw it. I’ve since come to feel differently about it and now feel that it has a genuine charm I just didn’t connect with initially. That charm is abundant in the sequel and I can’t imagine fans being disappointed by it. I’m not sure I see them eating this one up the way they did the first one either mind you. And while it may not be as aca-awesome as the first instalment, it is still pretty darn aca-dorable.