Wednesday, May 6, 2015

'Pitch Perfect 2' review

As a sorta professional film critic, I always try to see the big movies and the cultural phenomenons that dominate the conversation in the cinematic world. But every once in a while, there's something that I miss out on. Pitch Perfect is one of those things. The 2012 comedy smash hit about college A Capella singers burst onto the scene and become a certified word of mouth success, benefiting from a loyal fan base of teens and music lovers. The film wasn't a huge box office hit ($65 million in the US), but the soundtrack and the film carried on and started to gain a bit of a cult status in the pop culture mythos. Pitch Perfect 2 is seemingly coming at exactly the right time- the first film is still fresh in the mind of audiences, and fans are eager to see another installment in the franchise.

As someone who didn't see the original film, I went into my screening of Pitch Perfect 2 with a certain level of trepidation. I wasn't sure if I would really get the film and I hadn't enjoyed any of the trailers, so this was definitely not a film on my must-see list. Despite those concerns, I had a really fantastic time with this movie. It's funny from start to finish and it features an eclectic cast of endearing characters. The musical numbers are fantastic, the script is fresh and witty and this just feels like a fun summer comedy. There are a number of shortcomings that prevent Pitch Perfect 2 from being a truly good film, but I can't deny that it's a blast.

Pitch Perfect 2 continues the adventures of the Barden Bellas, a famed college A Capella group who has won the national A Capella championship for three years in a row. The film opens with them performing for President Barack Obama, but an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction involving Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) ends up causing national embarrassment for Barden University and the Bellas. The Dean informs team captain Beca (Anna Kendrick) that in order to perform in the future, the Bellas must find a way to beat international champions Das Sound Machine at the world championships.

While all of this is going on, Beca is also trying to balance her new internship with a big time music producer (Keegan Michael-Key), Fat Amy is dealing with her relationship with Bumper (Adam DeVine) and Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), a new Bella, is finding her own voice in the midst of all of this chaos. But to beat Das Sound Machine, the Bellas will need to band together and give their best performance yet on the biggest stage in the world.

If you couldn't tell from that synopsis, there's a lot of stuff going on in this movie. And to be honest with you, I barely scratched the surface. There are so many little side characters, random notes and brief plots that Pitch Perfect 2 can get a little bit tedious after a while. It also clocks in at 115 minutes, which is long for even the best of comedies. When you mix that in with a few dry spots in the movie, the relatively flat climax and the underdeveloped subplots, you've got a movie that, pardon the pun, isn't pitch perfect.

But that doesn't stop this movie from being hilarious. It totally is. From the word go, I was laughing out loud and I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout this whole film. Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow make for a solid core to the film (even though they both have their annoying moments), but it's the supporting players who get the best chance to shine.

Rebel Wilson is an actress who has the potential to be extremely annoying. She has a very distinct brand of comedy and it can grate on the nerves if the filmmakers aren't careful. However, I felt like director Elizabeth Banks and screenwriter Kay Cannon did a fantastic job of reigning Wilson in and keeping her from going too far. Wilson walks the line between annoying and charming quite well and does it with an unexpected sweetness.

John Michael Higgins and Banks herself get their moments of glory in the film as well, playing the American announcers who follow the Bellas everywhere. They're legitimately hilarious together and I was constantly in stitches whenever they came on screen. Keegan Michael-Key also has some brilliant moments and I continue to enjoy his comedic presence on the big and small screen.

The good thing about Pitch Perfect 2 is that it's funny. Man, this movie is hilarious. There were so many times that I burst out laughing that I simply lost count. And it's more than funny- it's consistently enjoyable and entertaining. The musical numbers are big and flashy and I was always having a good time while watching this movie. Cannon and Banks actually provide a decent attempt at creating an emotional backdrop for the story and you feel the bond between these girls.

The bad news is that the film is a structural mess, resulting in a lot of excess fat that should have been left on the editing floor. The men in the cast are mostly an interchangeable group of lovable losers who show up when the plot calls for them. There are also some weird detours that simply don't go anywhere. For example, the five best A Capella teams in the world (including Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers) compete for a $42,000 Dave and Busters gift card at the house of a mysterious millionaire (David Cross). And it's a very fun scene, but it just doesn't go anywhere. Das Sound Machine is a talented group but they never get the chance to escape their thick German accents and become characters.

It's truly the lack of focus that threatens to bring this movie down. The film struggles to stick to one plot- there has to be a quick turn here and another one here, and even when you finally feel that the movie has gotten on track, it goes off in a completely different direction. But through those flaws, the movie is still funny. That's its greatest secret: no matter how far astray it gets, its charm brings it back to success.

Pitch Perfect 2 isn't a great film nor is it an exceptionally well made one. But I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout the film and I had a total blast watching these characters and the dialogue come to life. This is a very funny and effective film, one that does what it needs to do and does it well. Some won't be able to look past its narrative flaws, but when a film is as funny as Pitch Perfect 2 is, I'm willing to overlook some small issues any day of the week.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B-                                             (6.9/10)

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the music and jokes a lot and thought that it was pretty good, but it was not as good as the first film.

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