Against All Odds, Pitch Perfect 2 Retains The Charm Of The Original.

Pitch Perfect 2.
Director: Elizabeth Banks.
Writer: Kay Cannon.
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam DeVine, Skylar Astin, Keegan-Michael Kay, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins.
Opens: Wide.

Three years ago, a seemingly ordinary musical comedy about an all-female a cappella group was released. Most didn't even give this film a second thought when they saw the previews.

Then word of mouth happened, and this weirdly funny and super-charming little October release known as Pitch Perfect because the movie everyone had to see.

Fast forward to now, and we're getting a much anticipated — if slightly worrisome — sequel. Films can strike comedy gold once, sure. But striking it twice? That's not easy. Really, is it even possible for Pitch Perfect 2 to capture the same charm and hilarity of its predecessor?

In a word, yes.

Here, we catch up with our favorite girl group, the Bellas, and all of our old friends are all still there — Becca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), and Chloe (Brittany Snow). In the three years since we've last seen them, the Bellas have been unstoppable, even performing in front of the POTUS for his birthday bash at Lincoln Center. Still, they're not immune from the sort of hijinks we've come to expect from them, and a wardrobe mishap with Fat Amy leads the group to be ousted from the national limelight. But hope and redemption remain in the form of the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella, which is a real thing, as we learn here. Of course, no American team has ever won that thing, and the road to glory doesn't look too easy — not with the powerhouse German reigning champions, Das Sound Machine, standing in the way.

With that inevitable showdown set in place, the movie then spends the bulk of its time focusing on our leads and the questions surrounding their futures.

Becca's doing OK, having landed an internship at a record label run by the hilarious Keegan-Michael Key, who pretty much steals every scene he's in. But Becca, as ever, has trouble committing; she learns the ins and outs of the record business, but she's torn between spending too much time on the clock and not enough time helping the Bellas prepare for the world championships. This is a struggle many college seniors face: She's ready to graduate and begin her career, but there's an undeniable, underlying fear of stepping out into the real world and becoming an adult. College provides a safety net from such concerns, which is why Chloe has failed Russian Lit three times. She's too afraid to leave her comfort zone of the Bellas.

The film really shines here with its focus on the girls' struggle with college coming to its. Director Elizabeth Banks showcases this trepidation well, too. Even though it's been three years since we've seen last seen these characters, the film does a fine job of showing how their relationships have grown. In turn, they feel closer as a group.

That said, the plot is fairly straightforward, and it's painfully obvious how this story will end.

But is anyone really heading into this movie for its plot? No, we watch films like this one for the characters, and thankfully we get only more of the main ones here. Fat Amy and Bumper (Adam DeVine) get even more screen time this time around, newcomer Emily (played by the surprisingly hilarious Hailee Steinfeld) establishes herself well, and Becca and Chloe act as the adulthood-fearing glue that ties it all together.

Other characters are diminished some: Becca's boyfriend Jesse (Skylar Astin) may as well not be in the film with as little as he's given, and fan-favorite side characters Angel-Rose and Lilly don't get much love, either. Conversely, aca-commentators Gail (Eliabeth Banks) and John (John Michael Higgins) are used too much, and their jokes get old quickly.

But even with its simple plot and minor character issues, the sequel ultimately accomplishes its goal of recapturing the charm of the first film. Plus, the music is as fun as ever. And, dare I say it, this film's “battle” is ever better than the first.

Grade: B.

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