MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ Is Proof That Sequels Don’t Have To Suck

pitch-perfect-2

Film: Pitch Perfect 2
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson
Directed by: Elizabeth Banks

After three years and several national titles, The Barden Bellas have embarked on their biggest adventure yet with Pitch Perfect 2.

There is a tried and true recipe to creating a great sequel that involves mixing just the right amount of familiar components with a hearty dose of fresh ideas to create, but for whatever reason most sequels fail to blend those ingredients in a way that creates a product superior to what came before. Pitch Perfect 2 is the exception, as it offers just the right amount of everything fans want while still pushing its fictional universe in new and interesting directions that, surprisingly, pay off. It’s as much a triumph for the cast and crew as it is for first-time director Elizabeth Banks, and in the end it’s the audience who benefits the most.

The story begins with The Bellas at the top of their game. Having already triumphed over every competing singing group in the country multiple times, the girls have been invited to perform for the President. During the performance, Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) rips her pants, and in the ensuing chaos she unintentionally flashes the most powerful man in the world, all while the group’s performance is being broadcast on national television. It’s a moment that immediately goes viral, and it eventually causes the team to be banned from collegiate competition. The only way to clear their name and reclaim their place atop the acappella hierarchy is to win the nationals, which no group from the United States has ever done, and soon the girls embark on a global journey that will not only challenge their talent, but their relationships as well.

While the main plot is a wholly satisfying and enjoyable affair, it’s the side stories that make Pitch Perfect 2 something great. Becca (Anna Kendrick) has finally landed the music industry job she has longed for, but the demands of her new position put a lot of tension on her relationship to the team. Meanwhile, Fat Amy continues her strange relationship with Bumper (Adam DeVine), which proves to be perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the entire film. The other girls have struggles of their own as well, though each takes a considerable backseat to the woes of the two biggest stars, and Elizabeth Banks finds a way to somehow balance all of this while simultaneously moving the central story forward. As a result, you walk away from the film feeling not only satisfied, but more engaged with the fictional world the Bellas inhabit than ever before. I wouldn’t go as far as to say there is universe building taking place, but there are several reveals that could potentially set up future stories that do not involve Becca or Fat Amy.

Speaking of stories that don’t require the highest paid people on set, a lot of Pitch Perfect 2 is intended to introduce moviegoers to the promising talent of Hailee Steinfeld. She has the honor of being the only new Barden Bella to receive her own back story, though at least three other new faces also join the team, and through sharing her experiences the film is able to set up a history of Bellas that could easily be spun off into numerous additional, albeit likely straight to VOD titles in the future. Steinfeld is also the lone freshman on the team, which makes it seem likely Universal will want her to lead Pitch Perfect 3 if such a title ever comes into existence.

The music in Pitch Perfect 2 is, as expected, one of the film’s many highlights. The new single, “Flashlight,” is no “Cups,” but that doesn’t really matter. What audiences loved about the original film, and what they will no doubt enjoy even more this time around is how the various vocal groups reimagine classic tracks to fit their instrument-less sound. Everyone from Fall Out Boy to Natalie Imbruglia are covered, and each rendition ups the creative ante more and more. If you can resist dancing to the Treblemakers’ cover of “Lollipop” you are a far colder soul than I.

If the funny and more musical side of Pitch Perfect 2 is where the film soars, it’s the drama and emotionally heavy stuff where things get a bit messy. Banks is a perfectly capable director who shoots everything in a predictable, albeit fitting fashion. The problems arise not from her work, but rather the script itself, which struggles to balance the development of individuals against the need to move the entire team forward. The result is a two-hour event that at times feels a little too bloated for its own good. The sequences contained are all worthy of being shown, but it’s often so scattered that you begin to wonder what, if anything, was left on the cutting room floor.

If spending time with familiar characters while they undergo new transformations is what you hoped to find in Pitch Perfect 2, then I am happy to say you will be pleased with the long-awaited sequel. If you wanted more of the same you will more than likely walk away disappointed, but that is not the fault of the film as much as it is your lack of interest in seeing the characters further developed. Sequels should challenge viewers as much as they play into their desires, and that is exactly what Elizabeth Banks and crew have attempted to accomplish with Pitch Perfect 2. Could it be better? Sure. But it could just as easily be a lot worse, and in a summer riddled with sequels that have the potential to suck it’s nice to know some titles can find fresh and interesting ways to innovate without alienating its core audience.

GRADE: A-

Written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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