Review: Singing praises for 'Pitch Perfect 2'
By Fred Hawson
Posted at 05/17/2015 12:11 PM | Updated as of 05/17/2015 12:12 PM
I was late on the first "Pitch Perfect" bandwagon when it was first shown back in 2012 and became a sleeper hit. I did not rate it too highly when I wrote my review about it, giving it only a 6/10. I cited that I did not like the lead character of Beca as played by Anna Kendrick. I thought the singing scenes were hit and miss, with the climactic final number ruined by a pitchy solo by Kendrick. However, with repeated viewings with my kids, I confess that I eventually warmed up to the movie and the Bellas. The whole family was very excited to watch this sequel the first chance we had.
In Part 2, we see the Barden Bellas on a roll after winning the Nationals three years in a row. However, during a fateful command performance in front of the President of the USA at Lincoln Center, Fat Amy had a wild wardrobe malfunction disaster which plunged the Bellas into major shame and competition suspension. In order to redeem themselves, they enlist to join the formidable World Acapella Competitions, which no US team has ever won. This film shows how they try to recover the group harmony they lost, as they face graduation and welcome a talented new Bella in their midst.
Since we all know these girls very well already, it was really great to see them all again. Anna Kendrick's Beca Mitchell is again her dour self, but she is more tolerable now than in the first film. She secretly enters an internship in a recording company in pursuit of her dream to become a record producer. This gave her a chance to interact with a very funny Keegan-Michael Key as her boss. I liked the guesting stint of Snoop Dogg in the scene where Beca got to show her boss her mixing skills.
Rebel Wilson's Fat Amy is wackier than ever, even getting herself a big solo number and an official boyfriend in this one. Brittany Snow's obsessed Chloe is still my personal favorite, deliberately flunking a required subject just to remain a Bella. The rest of the girls, butch Cynthia-Rose (Ester Dean), sexy Stacie (Alexis Knapp) and mysterious Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), are all still there, though not as much as the first film.
We meet a new Bella in the person of Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), who has a knack for writing original songs. I was more excited to see "Married with Children" Katey Sagal as Emily's mother, but too bad her part was too short.
Their rival boy group the Treblemakers, including Jesse (Skylar Astin) and Benji (Ben Platt), were pretty much in the background only this time. Annoying former Treblemaker leader Bumper (Adam DeVine) returns to Bardem as a security guard, and gets a bigger part here as Fat Amy's love interest.
The main antagonist in this film are the ruthless and joyless German team, Das Sound Machine, led by two towering Aryan bullies Pieter Krämer (Flula Borg) and Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen).
Getting much more exposure and more grating and potentially offensive racist and misogynistic remarks are the competition commentator duo of Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberg (Elizabeth Banks) and John Smith (John Michael Higgins). Higgins, in particular, was really given very sharp and controversial lines to deliver, which could be very funny -- but only if you are not in the demographic he is dissing.
The best singing scenes in this sequel was still the Riff-Off part, just as this was my favorite part in the first film. The mash-ups were seamless and the singing was dope. The first such sing-off with the category of songs about butts was made even more hilarious by the guest appearance of buff and burly football players, the Green Bay Packers, singing "Bootilicious" of all songs! You have to see and hear it to believe it.
In the international competition at the end, we see Pentatonix representing Canada and Fil-am group Filharmonic representing the Philippines, which were nice surprises.
If you liked the first "Pitch Perfect" film, I think you will like this one more. I thought the acapella song numbers were much better arranged and executed here than the first. I liked the throwback reference to "When You're Gone," the "Cups Song" which was a top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for Anna Kendrick long after the film had left the cinemas. The original song featured in this one, "Flashlight," is promising potential hit as well, with its own catchy handclap routine. "We Belong" by Pat Benatar is this film's answer to last film's "Don't You (Forget About Me)".
The story had the right balance of comedy and drama to delight and touch fans, told pretty well by first-time director Elizabeth Banks, on triple duty here as producer and star as well. In spite the occasional raunchy off-color jokes or race- and gender-insensitive comments, I'd call "Pitch Perfect 2" THE feel-good good-time film for this summer of 2015. 7/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."