Saturday, May 16, 2015

Movie Review #258: "Pitch Perfect 2" (2015)

Movie"Pitch Perfect 2"
Ticket Price: $12.50
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Rating: PG-13
Running Time 1 hour, 55 minutes
Image Source
Three years have gone by since the new Barden Bellas have come together and they are now three-time defending national collegiate acapella champions. Being champions, they have been asked to perform for the president during his birthday, but during the performance, a wardrobe malfunction has Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) going full commando on stage, disgracing the Bellas, Barden, and the whole world of collegiate acapella singing. As a result, the Bellas are banned from the collegiate tour circuit, auditions, and the national championships. Though banned from collegiate competition, the Bellas are still allowed to compete at the acapella world championships. The Bellas make a deal that if they win the world championship, they can be reinstated on the college circuit. But when Beca (Anna Kendrick) gets an internship at a recording company, it takes her focus off the competition and threatens their chance at victory. 

The Bellas are back in a bigger film with more music and even a couple new members have joined the group this time. The new members include Chrissy Fit, who plays Flo, a Guatemalan immigrant who often speaks of her tragic upbringing. Flo was kidnapped as a child and her brother also attempted to trader her for a chicken at one point. All of these tales of woe are told in a darkly humorous manner, of course, and are usually brought on by one of the Bellas complaining about their first world problems. Finally, Emily, played by Hailee Steinfeld, is a legacy and an aspiring songwriter. Her mother, Katherine Junk, played by the delightful Katey Sagal, was a Bella many decades ago and instilled the want and need for Emily to be a Bella at a young age, so it's all she's ever wanted. There are also a slew of cameos including David Cross, Lolo's favorite Reggie Watts, Jason Jones, John Hodgman, Joe Lo Truglio, Snoop Dogg, the cast of the View, the cast of the Voice, Jimmy Kimmel, the Green Bay Packers and several others. Wow, what a weird group of people to type in one sentence! Rebel Wilson's Fat Amy also has a larger part in this film and a bit of a romantic story line with Bumper, played by the returning and self-centered Adam DeVine, who slightly began their secretive romantic escapades in the first film. Rebel does have quite a few funny moments, but the same spirit of Fat Amy feels a bit off and more forced this time around. There may even be a little bit of an over-saturation of Rebel Wilson here, which bums us out because we have taken a liking to her, we just hope she doesn't go the way of Kevin Hart and spread herself over too many projects at once. Anna Kenrick returns as snarky Bella leader Beca, who starts to lose focus and spread herself thin when she gets the opportunity of a lifetime to intern at a record company, under the tutelage of Beca's boss, played hilariously by Keegan-Michael Key. Key is a star in his own right and fits in perfectly as an overbearing perfectionist with a knack for the musical. He and Kendrick also get some good scenes together where their mutual weirdness shines. Kendrick often delivers her comedy in a dead pan, sarcastic style, but sells it on her charm and moderate quirkiness. She can do no wrong in our book. She has some truly hilarious, great exchanges with Kommissor, played by Birgitte Hjort Sørenson, who leads the rival German group Das Sound Machine. Beca wants nothing more than to throw a wicked burn at Kommissor, but can't help but compliment her looks, her smell, or her talent out of an awkward and confusing sexual attraction. This leads to some wonderful back and forth between the two, and Sørenson, though speaking with a thick, intimidatingly verbose accent, fits right in with this cast and plays a brilliant leader and superb arch rival to the Bellas. She and YouTube star Flula Borg make one powerhouse duo. When it comes to the actual competitions, Das Sound Machine really does put on an especially good, yet bizarrely dictatorial show and the little music battle scenes are always fun to watch, too, especially with so many big names and an equally bizarre scenario that led the Bellas to the battle in the first place.

There is a change in the approach to the comedy in "Pitch Perfect 2" as it appears to be far more self-aware and self-deprecating. It addresses many of the things people question or poke fun at in the first movie. The commentators Gail and John, played by the movie's director Elizabeth Banks, alongside John Michael Higgins, are revealed to be internet podcasters, not television commentators, delivering the same amount of sass, only John has upped the sexism and the racism this time around. The seemingly inexplicable popularity of each individual acapella group is only so within the acapella circles and they are actually mocked outside of these groups. While "Pitch Perfect 2" is definitely one of the more solid sequels out there this year, there are a few setbacks that hinder it from being the best film of the (hopefully only a) duo. As we mentioned above, some of the scenarios and jokes do feel quite forced. Whereas most of the jokes in the original felt rather seamless, there were some fizzles here and there where we wish we had either laughed more or laughed at all. On top of this, it also seemed like there were many more attempts at simple shock value rather than good, thought out, well executed jokes and situations, and these attempts to shock audiences are about as subtle as a freight train. Most of the acting is on point and this has been carried over from the first movie, but a couple of new characters just don't mesh well in the collective scheme of the movie. Plot holes aside, the best thing about most these pictures is the music, as well as the performances. It's a good thing, too, because the plots are always super simple and very predictable, but these films aren't really about an enthralling story line, they are about good laughs and an entertaining experience, which we certainly had.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 68%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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