Director: Elizabeth Banks
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow
Running time: 115 minutes
The follow-up to 2012’s surprise sleeper hit comedy, Pitch Perfect 2 unashamedly reworks the formula that made the first film so wildly successful. Fans of its predecessor can expect more of the same bawdy humour, memorable lines and soaring musical numbers. And for the most part, the formula works.
In the three years since we last saw the Barden Bellas, they’ve become three-time national championship winners and revamped their entire image. Until, that is, Rebel Wilson’s character Fat Amy suffers a catastrophic wardrobe malfunction that ends with her flashing a packed out Kennedy Center during their performance. In front of President Obama, no less. From here on out, the plot revolves around the Bellas’ attempts to redeem themselves by winning an international a cappella competition and beating rival team, Das Sound Machine.
As with the original, Pitch Perfect 2 is much more driven by its characters than intricate plot development. And this film is at its finest when it’s dealing with the bonds and relationships between these characters, such as the conflict between Becca and Chloe over their shared fear of life after college, or Becca’s collaboration with newcomer Emily. One of the best scenes from the film is simply an open and relaxed conversation between the Bellas around a campfire. Part of what makes this franchise so popular, yet sets it apart from other mainstream teen comedies, is that it deals, at its core, with female friendships.
And perhaps this is why it’s so frustrating to see the film fall into the trap of reducing its diverse characters to mere stereotypes for comedic effect. Flo, a Guatemalan exchange student, only ever speaks to make throwaway comments about malaria, diarrhea or deportation. These jokes are made so often that they soon become both repetitive and uncomfortable, and the film crosses the line from laughing at a stereotype to simply perpetuating it. Despite these errors, other areas of the comedy continue to shine. Fat Amy remains as hilariously brash and sassy as ever, and Anna Kendrick provides some solid laughs with her goofy attempts at trash-talking the Bellas’ German competitors.
In terms of musical numbers, this sequel does not disappoint, with plenty of mash-ups and a return of the ‘riff-offs’, this time featuring wackier song categories and excellent cameos by the Green Bay Packers and alumni group The Tone Hangers. Pitch Perfect 2 ultimately ends on a massive high note, as the entire plot builds up to the Bellas’ final performance, which is probably the most energetic and moving of the entire franchise. However, it is only in this final performance that Pitch Perfect 2 manages to capture some of the same spark that made its predecessor so special.
In the end, bigger and louder doesn’t actually equal a better film. This sequel doesn’t really manage to say anything new or revelatory, but this doesn’t necessarily make it a failure. Pitch Perfect 2 doesn’t pretend to do anything other than give you more of the same bawdy humour and catchy music and, for the most part, it succeeds in this. The humour dives far too frequently into the realm of the uncomfortable, and the plot is occasionally messy and uneven. However, if you enjoyed the original film, you’ll probably enjoy most of Pitch Perfect 2. Despite its issues, this sequel still has more wit and heart than the majority of teen comedies out there, and ultimately is still worth a watch.