Pitch Perfect 2

With a Rebel Yell, More, More, More

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson

Review written by Robert D. Patrick

Marty McFly waltzed into to the old west, the Ninja Turtles ran afoul in feudal Japan, Ace Ventura sprang to the jungle, and now the Bellas head to Europe. When you’re writing a sequel, there’s no time to be indolent. You have to pack up your bags and change scenery. And while that vanilla formula usually doesn’t work, here, in Kay Cannon’s clever Pitch Perfect 2 screenplay, the passport stamp is one of approval. Still, there are hiccups to be had. Because, this time around, most of the sequel takes place off campus, the compact and intimate nature of the first film is not entirely present. The small moments had larger laughs, and Barden University was more warmly accessible than, say, a swanky car show or the too-large-for-its-own-good outdoor venue in the sequel.

The crass and flash of the original is still present, thanks to Cannon’s involvement, but some of the whimsy and heart feels lost in the enormity of this film. The plot revolves around the Bellas and their tenuous bid to win the a cappella world championship. The nemesis of the girls, this time around, is the steely and resolute Das Sound Machine, an expressionless ensemble of German a cappella performers. Beca (Anna Kendrick), the leader of the Bellas, is tasked with undermining the European crew of inviolable singers. The decision to use Germans as the unsympathetic and callous antagonists wasn’t exactly inspired. How many times can we use that country as dartboard for low-hanging cultural jokes?  There is about 30 “your language is different than mine” lines littered around in this script. If you’re a German in an American comedy, you have to have the appearance of Annie Lennox and the dialogue of a Hogan’s Heroes character. Can we do something different? This is just another variation of Beerfest.

Pitch Perfect 2 could have benefited from battling a domestic a cappella squad. Watching the Bellas battle a team of singers that look like they came out of an Aeon Flux cartoon is less enjoyable than you would think. That said, the time the girls spend together, particularly away from the championship, is as charismatic as you would imagine. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) gets the most erudite, clever, and whip-smart dialogue of the entire group. Wilson gets shoehorned into physical comedy, because of her shape, but she does more than just self-satire. Her weirdly vehement one-liners are ridiculously observational, and her timing great. Wilson slays on all fronts with a confident grin and a lazy lilt, and is the absolute best thing about Pitch Perfect 2. Meanwhile, Anna Kendrick’s character is entangled in a superfluous sub plot with a megalomaniac music producer that yields a few good lines, but not as many as you would think. The new Bella, played by True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld, provides the heart that Kendrick’s character supplied in the original film. And the rest of the girls are there to provide non sequitors as necessary.

The Bellas may get more movies, but none of them will be as wonderfully fun and acerbic as the first. That said, Pitch Perfect 2 is a pleasant diversion and a decent expansion pack. I’m looking forward to Pitch Perfect 32: Outerbass, where the girls compete on a spaceship. You never know.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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