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.

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REVIEW: Pitch Perfect

4 10 2012

It took three years for the “Glee” high to trickle down into film? Surprising that Hollywood didn’t milk the a capella pop song earlier because now that goose is no longer popping out golden eggs … and now we’re left with “Pitch Perfect.”  It’s a movie happy to riff on the vocal talent Ryan Murphy assembled but wants none of the social responsibility.

It takes swipes at minorities, overweight people, homosexuals … really anyone who doesn’t fit in.  “Pitch Perfect” is stuck in the old normal, which may be gleeful fun for some but just makes me wince.  (I have to have set some kind of record for Ryan Murphy series wordplay there.)  If the film’s humor isn’t knocking down the little guy, it’s making some HEINOUS pun on the word a capella.  If you cringe at the thought of hearing someone say “A ca-scuse me?!” with a straight face, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

I guess it’s also trying to adhere to the old normal of high school/college movies, trying to fashion itself as the new “Mean Girls” … which itself was trying to be a new John Hughes film.  “Pitch Perfect” even goes as far as to blatantly self-reference and name drop these movies!  I’m not entirely opposed to trying to make lightning strike the same place twice.  However, if you are going to so patently harken back to a classic, you have to be prepared to face the an apples-to-apples comparison.

And “Pitch Perfect” is no “The Breakfast Club.”  Heck, it’s more like a “Jennifer’s Body,” 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.  Not even the presence of Anna Kendrick, who won my heart in “Up in the Air,” can salvage this movie.  The only worthwhile segments in the bloated two hour duration were the well-orchestrated a capella pieces, but you can just listen to those on YouTube or Spotify or however the kids listen to music these days.  There’s no reason you need to see the whole rest of the movie just to get to those.  C- 

REVIEW: The Ugly Truth

30 07 2009

I’ll spare you the bad puns about the ugly truth about this movie. What I will say about “The Ugly Truth” is that at face value, it is a movie so predictable that it is almost painful. You know the formula: guy and girl who are complete opposites meet, they bicker and fight, they reluctantly interact, one of them makes a friendly gesture and things change, and then they fall in love (but usually make love before they realize that). While the movie sticks to this formula like white on rice, it does manage to offer up some gut-wrenching laughs.

In one corner, we have Abby (Katherine Heigl, television’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Knocked Up”), the femnist control freak with her checklist of characteristics that any prospective date has to meet. She dreams of the perfect guy who will respect her for the hard-working woman that she is, but TV personality Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler, “300”) sees things through a different lens. He is a realist, which makes him come off as chauvinistic, who sees men for the sex-crazy pigs that they really are. They butt heads instantly, and much to Abby’s dismay, he is brought in as a ratings ploy on the show that she produces. She eventually confides in Mike to help solve her drought with men, and he turns her into the girl of every man’s dreams…er, fantasies. Only then do the hilarious antics really start as prim and proper Abby slowly takes on some of Mike’s gruff tendencies. Naturally, Abby’s sweetness rubs off on Mike slowly, but when the film delves into the depths of his heart, it becomes corny and clichéd.

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