Comedy Film Review

'Pitch Perfect 2' Film Review: Formulaic, but still a sequel worth singing about

May 15, 2015Ben MK

"Aca-Wiedersehen bitches!"

When it comes to feel-good comedies that are equal parts raunch and heart, it's hard to top Pitch Perfect, the 2012 film that took the classic underdog story and applied it to the world of collegiate a cappella singing competitions. Of course, that would never preclude Hollywood from trying. Enter Pitch Perfect 2, a sequel that rises to the challenge by capitalizing on the original's tried-and-true formula, delivering more — much, much more — of the same. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.

It's been three years since the Bardem Bellas (among them, Anna Kendrick's Beca, Brittany Snow's Chloe, Hana Mae Lee's Lilly, Ester Dean's Cynthia and Rebel Wilson's Fat Amy) took home top honors at nationals, and since then the three-time defending a cappella champions have been basking in the limelight of their hard-earned success. When we're reunited with them at the beginning of the movie, they're at the peak of their newfound fame, performing for a sold-out crowd that includes none other than Barack and Michelle Obama. Their fortunes soon take a massive nosedive, however, when Fat Amy suffers a scandalous wardrobe malfunction — to the tune of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball," no less — leading Barden University to unceremoniously strip them of their title and ban them from national competition.

But just when it seems like life-as-they-know-it is over for the Bellas, along comes a golden opportunity for redemption, in the form of the a cappella World Championships in Copenhagen. If they can achieve victory there, all their problems are solved. The only catch — to do so they must defeat the reigning world champs: formidable German power group Das Sound Machine (led by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and Flula Borg).

In what follows, director Elizabeth Banks (who also reprises her role as a colorful a cappella commentator opposite John Michael Higgins) and returning screenwriter Kay Cannon take a page — or several dozen — from the first film, as the Bellas, who find themselves at a new low point in their competitive career, struggle to rediscover their musical identity while preparing to take on their German rivals in an all-or-nothing, winner-take-all sing-off. Call it lazy filmmaking, but for the most part the formula — blending rapid-fire humor with song after song after song — still works. That being said, Pitch Perfect 2 does serve up a few storyline tweaks to differentiate it from its predecessor: namely, the indoctrination of bubbly freshman Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), a subplot involving Beca's new job as intern to irascible record producer Keegan-Michael Key, and awkward romantic developments between Fat Amy and former Treblemaker Bumper (Adam DeVine).

The result isn't a movie that too many moviegoers will feel absolutely compelled to go see. However, if you count yourself among the fan base for the first film, you'll certainly get a fair bit of mileage out of this franchise entry, if only for the sheer number of songs featured throughout (which range from Pat Benatar's "We Belong" to Sisqo's "Thong Song"), not to mention the hilarious cameos (including Snoop Dogg and select members of the Green Bay Packers).

Otherwise, the offbeat and oftentimes non-PC humor (outside of Wilson's lines) can be dodgy and there isn't much offered in the way of genuine creativity. But at least the film compensates by taking subtle jabs at itself for its own lack of originality, a welcome self-awareness that goes a long way in helping to ease the sense of déjà vu moviegoers might feel while watching it. All in all, Pitch Perfect 2 may not live up to its title, but by no means is it off-key. In fact, as far as sequels go, it mostly hits the right notes.

Pitch Perfect 2 releases May 15th, 2015 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for innuendo and language. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 55 Mins.

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