We’re Back, Pitches!
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The first Pitch Perfect was a fairly pleasant surprise. I went into it not really expecting much of anything besides a typical college rivalry movie with a bit of catchy music thrown in to sell soundtracks. The music for me still remains the highlight of the original, but I was surprisingly charmed by the original’s characters and just how fantastic their interactions were. It was a bit quirky, felt honest, and even though some of the scenes became a little too dramatic for my tastes, the essence of the characters always felt germane. In the age where any sort of profit can generally give the go-ahead for another entry whether or not, Pitch Perfect 2 seemed like a foregone conclusion after the critical and financial success of the original. The sequel is charming in its own right, treading a few familiar paths but rarely feeling like it was a simple redo. The slick humor that was so characteristic of the first entry is even slicker this time around, given new life with witty one-liners and gags aplenty. The soundtrack is just as fantastic, even though there isn’t a stand out single in the vein of Anna Kendrick’s wonderful “Cups”. But the most valuable player in the entire film is the continued focus on the relationships between these characters, shedding new light on their dynamics while eschewing typical dramatic fare.
The opening begins with a great performance from the Barden Bellas that goes hilariously wrong. As punishment, they’re forced into suspension, which includes them being prohibited from participating in intercollegiate championships and holding auditions to bring in new members for the Bellas. But there’s one chance at redemption that arrives thanks to Becca’s quick thinking and that is the World Championships, brought to you by the Copenhagen Tourism Department. It’s a prestigious acapella event that has never been won by an American team and that essentially sets up the central conflict that drives the narrative forward. It’s the last chance at redemption the team has before nearly all of them graduate and move on to greater pastures. It wouldn’t be a championship movie without some rivalry, however, and the German acapella team Das Machine (who really are quite terrific, but just douchy enough that you want to see them get taken down a peg pretty quickly) steps in to get the job done.
The shadow of moving on is hanging over every character’s heads and that aspect brings out the best in this story. With the Barden Bellas on their last leg so to speak, the future becomes a more pressing question for everyone, coloring in their journey as they try to come to terms with what lies beyond being a Bella. The upcoming championship becomes a staging ground for the group in many ways, a sort of mechanism that they can utilize to find an answer to the question that every college graduate faces: “What’s next?” For Becca, however, the future seems to be more pressing than to everyone else. She’s wise enough to not have all of her hopes hinge upon a single championship that they could easily win or lose, taking an internship where she quickly rises to the occasion because she actually has the talent to go far and beyond delivering K-cup coffee to everyone who can’t simply get up and make a cup of their own. In taking that internship, however, Bella begins to feel guilty that perhaps she’s betraying the Bellas somehow and when her secret is exposed, there isn’t the typical grand dramatics that everyone would expect. It’s almost the opposite.
Pitch Perfect 2 has plenty of opportunities to become super dramatic in all the expected ways, but it shies away from that by instead choosing to focus on how these characters are supporting each other instead of tearing each other down. It’s refreshing to see female characters in films like this not reduced to mere catfight fodder and Elizabeth Banks in her directorial debut is comfortable enough with these characters that she knows just when to approach these emotionally dramatic standpoints and then shimmy right back down without overdoing it. If there is a major complaint I have with the film, it’s that the attention paid to the relationships between these characters and their refreshingly germane romances doesn’t always transcend to deepening those characters as a whole. Some of the background Bellas remain very much in the background, except for some great one-liners (including a great one about being in the minority) and I would honestly have liked to get the opportunity to know more about who they are other than Bellas. Das Machine is pretty generic as far as villainous rival groups go and they’re so stereotypically German that it’s a bit hard to take them seriously. Despite these character flaws, the sequel is a fastidious roar of excitement and in those final moments, you can’t help but cheer at the top of your voice for the Bellas to take the prize.
Title: Pitch Perfect 2
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Directed by: Elizabeth Banks
Produced by: Elizabeth Banks, Paul Brooks, Kay Cannon, Max Handelman, Jeff Levine
Written by: Kay Cannon
Based On: Characters created by Kay Cannon, Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory by Mickey Rapkin
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Alexis Knapp, Hailee Steinfeld, Chrissie Fit
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh, The Underdogs
Cinematography: Jim Denault
Edited by: Craig Alpert
Production Company: Gold Circle Films
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Running Time: 115 minutes
Release Dates: May 15, 2015
Image Courtesy: AHD Wallpaper