Practice your scales and break out your jazz-hands, its time for the Pitch Perfect 2 review!
Picking up at the end of the university journey for the Barden Bellas and their acapella escapades this film throws us into a story which is familiar from most sequels; the heroines start at the top, suffer a major set-back and then spend the rest of the film building back to their former greatness. There really isn’t much here that is going to surprise anyone who has seen the first film, but that doesn’t matter as this is such a fun and entertaining ride that the plot is almost superfluous to the proceedings
This film is all about enjoying the chemistry which the girls have with one another, not forgetting the crowd-pleasing musical numbers that make up much of the run-time. You really believe that these girls care about singing together, and what’s more you can buy that by delivering such powerhouse singing performances other people would care enough to be their fans. The cast went through a month of singing boot-camp prior to filming, as they did before the first movie, and this really helps you to buy into the group’s obvious history together. It also helps that each one of the girls is different enough to be memorable, even if they are only able to have a few moments apiece to hold the spot-light, and with such a busy film it’s a wonder that anyone apart from the main three characters ever gets a look in let alone being able to be memorable. My personal favourite is Hana Mae Lee as Lily, whose pleasingly insane whispered asides consistently had me in stitches. Although these amusing sidekicks help to pad-out the group, most of the time we spend with them is focussed on Anna Kendrick’s Beca and Brittany Snow’s Chloe, who have such a believably combative friendship that it is a pleasure to watch them whenever they are on screen. Rebel Wilson, as Fat Amy, has really been pushed in the advertising as part of this film’s comedic talent, and in some cases she really comes through and delivers some unexpected off the wall moments that made me chuckle. Unfortunately I did find that at lot of her scenes seemed a bit forced, but I don’t think that is actually down to her performance, but more on that in a bit.
Now, everyone knows that even the best heroes need to have a good villain to bounce off, and in this case that comes in the form of the German super-group Das Soundmachine. They are the acapella equivalent of Kraftwerk and hilarious to boot. Kommisar, Brigette Hjort Sorensen, and Pieter Kramer, Flula Borg, are the two leads of the group and bring a brilliant feeling of Teutonic efficiency and superiority to the proceedings. A lot of the lines that they are given could have veered towards stereotypical and slightly racist if these two did not clearly have their tongues rammed into their cheeks. It also helps that their musical pieces are so different from and, in a lot of ways, superior to what the Bellas have to offer so that they present a real threat to their eventual aim of clawing back to the top of the acapella world. The rivalry between the two groups is tangible and very good fun, whether its during the inevitable “sing-off” or just whilst they are trash-talking at one another.
Laid over the top of all this musical warfare though are arguably the two funniest performances of the whole film; Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as the acapella commentators/podcasters Gail and John. Their comedic chemistry and timing is superb, and I rarely found myself not laughing when they were on screen. The joy of knowing that John is about to say something that is entirely outrageous and completely out of date and then have Gail try to pull things back into some semblance of politically correct is one of the best parts of the movie whilst also providing some exposition without making it feel forced. Elizabeth Banks is also doubling up on this movie in her directorial debut in which she does not make any radical departures from the style of the first movie, but equally would not be expected to do so either. Although the camera work may not blow your mind, the editing is spot on and you get the feeling that Banks’ comedy timing has been used to great effect to put together a film that feels tight and to the point without being overly forced.
Onto the disappointments; the romantic scenes which are included in this film are often forced and almost entirely superfluous to the plot. It feels very much as though someone said “hang on, they’re girls, shouldn’t they be in love or something?” and then got the writers to add something in to fit. Unfortunately this mainly leads to a few scenes which don’t really seem to drive the story forwards or fit the characters who are involved in them. Fat Amy is unfortunately the main person that this happens to, which does mean that a lot of her signature humour, which enlivened the first film so much, is relegated to a somewhat pointless romantic subplot that does not really ring true with her as a person. It could also be argued that the newest member of the Bellas, Emily (played by Hailee Seinfeld) is only in the film to provide another romantic aspect to it, but since the story that she is involved in is played to be remarkably sweet without ever turning completely saccharin this does not grate as much as Fat Amy’s romantic interests.
Happily none of this gets in the way of the real reason that this film has been such a success at the box-office; the singing. This movie takes what was done in the predecessor and virtually hits the same beats, but with bigger production values and a higher volume. Rarely will you find yourself not nodding your head or tapping your feet as all of the various and sundry acts bring their best harmonies out to play. This is pure visual and audio entertainment at its best. So, we have a film which is entertaining throughout, rarely slows down and is genuinely fun and funny. In short; go see it!
Three Moons out of Five. Good fun.