REVIEW: Pitch Perfect 2

16 06 2015

While I was a repeat listener of the “Pitch Perfect” soundtrack, I most certainly had no desire to return to the film itself.  In my (admittedly harsh) review of the first film, I dubbed it “a comedy that inspires more groans than laughs and thinks it has a whole lot more insightful things to say about growing up than it actually does.”

So color me surprised to count myself a fan of “Pitch Perfect 2,” the rare Hollywood sequel that actually learns the correct lessons from the success of the original.  The music is tighter and catchier than before; the message, more potent and impactful.  The characters, too, are more relatable and hilarious the second time around.

Writer Kay Cannon, returning to script the series’ follow-up, cuts down the “aca-nnoying” pun humor to much more reasonable levels and finds great hilarity in just having the Barden Bellas interact with each other.  At times, she does this to the point of fault, as the many subplots of “Pitch Perfect 2” often overpower the main narrative of the group trying to regain their former glory after an ignominious display at the Kennedy Center.

That preoccupation with the personal hardly does harm to the movie, though, as these scenes are the highlight of the film.  Watching Anna Kendrick’s Beca attempting the tricky balance of professional exploration at a music company with her duties to the Bellas rings so true, and it also gives the actress a chance to showcase her vibrant range of emotions beyond the scowl she was limited to in the first “Pitch Perfect.”  Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy is another undeniable highlight, given a hysterical romantic arc with Adam DeVine’s Bumper; the two play off each other with remarkable comic intuition.

PP2

The film still has its fair share of issues, including John Michael Higgins’ deliberately retrograde announcer, whose sexist and racist jokes threaten to cross the line from satire to poor taste.  But overall, director Elizabeth Banks deserves some major props for sprucing up a series while also putting her own touch on it.  For a debut, this is remarkably assured filmmaking.

I could not help but notice the feminist meta narrative that seemed to get her extra attention as Hailee Steinfeld’s Emily, the group’s newest member, gains her voice and learns to stand up for her original material.  In an artistic environment dominated by derivative riffs on pre-existing material, staying true to an internal guiding voice makes for a radical action.  “Pitch Perfect 2” may not represent anything groundbreaking, but Banks certainly puts another big crack in the glass ceiling for female directors in the film industry.  B / 2halfstars

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