What?s a female-driven musical flick about the borderline estranging world of a cappella to do when it gets put up against summer blockbusters like Avengers Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road and Furious 7? Belt out its heart and soul as if nobody were watching, obviously.
The first Pitch Perfect film was released to excellent reviews but only moderate box-office numbers. Thanks in part probably to the cultural glitch Glee but mostly because of its infective soundtrack, hugely likeable cast and solid script, the film became a runaway home media success. Now, the bitches are back and they?ve brought with them the masses apparently, with the sophomore film on its way in its opening weekend to taking more than half of the freshman?s overall earnings. Acca-mazing.
The first being cherished for its originality, how then does Pitch Perfect 2 conserve creativity? By repeating itself almost beat for beat. From an affronting performance to open the film; to the arrival of a new, unsuspecting Bella; to the intermittent barrage of sass and exposition from commentators Gail and John (Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins); to a pivotal riff-off; to the Bellas? abundance of relational crises ? it?s all there. Songs are sung, lessons are learned and hugs had.
Screenwriter Kay Cannon may keep the plot template that worked first time for her intact but she alters many of the themes ? dropping ?fitting in? for ?looking to the future? for example ? which keeps the drama relevant. She also swaps many of the original?s 80?s film tropes for something more 21st century, being less The Breakfast Club and more Bachelorette. Most importantly though, she maintains the tight x-jokes-per-minute ratio that made her 30 Rock and New Girl scripts so hysterical and revisits her diverse musical playlist that is second only to Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman?s.
Notably, Cannon?s irrepressibly clever and occasionally risque script (I?m still sighing at how many jokes seemed to rush straight over most of the younger audience?s heads) and Elizabeth Banks?s commendable debut direction would be all for nought without a great cast. All of the returning talents excel ? Anna Kendrick once more owns the adorable, headstrong Beca; Rebel Wilson again takes us to awkward places with her on-the-nose Fat Amy and the formulaic ensemble?s quirks continue to tickle our ribs ? but it is the new blood that helps keep the laughs coming. Most significant are David Cross as a sexually confused, weird a cappella superfan who organises an underground competition and Flula Borg, the Youtube personality-turned-actor whose resemblance to Billy Eichner makes him the perfect over-the-top German acca-antagonist. Hailee Steinfeld is a bit of an anomaly, however: whilst she brings needed change to the Barden Bellas, as a character she seems to be the only one not entirely developed. She?s well played but not fully rounded.
The tracklist this time around also doesn?t miss a beat, throwing in some incredibly catchy remixes and medleys which have a huge stylistic range. If there was one complaint to be had with Pitch Perfect 2 that cannot be overlooked though, it is that the film?s antagonists, European a cappella group Das Sound Machine, are sorely underused both musically and as characters who interact with and apart from the Bellas. Their distinct sound and smackdowns are massively entertaining though fairly sporadic which makes their inclusion bitter-sweet in that they are the most fun part of the film but are also not a joke that is run into the ground.
As far as a cappella-focused summer hits go, Pitch Perfect 2 is near-flawless. The sequel we never knew we needed to the film we never even saw coming.
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