If watching Anna Kendrick sing a Christmas duet with Snoop Dogg (excuse me- Snoop Lion) sounds exciting, than have I got a movie for you.
Three years after Pitch Perfect became an underserved blockbuster and Anna Kendrick’s “Cups” began stalking us over the radio waves, the sequel once again portrays the underdog rise of the Barden Bellas a cappella group, led by Kendrick. This time, they’re competing in a high-stakes competition, struggling to keep their friendships and love lives in order and… actually, they do the same things they did in the first movie.
Producer and co-star Elisabeth Banks makes this her directorial debut and she does well at staging the improbably well choreographed stage performances (seriously, when do these girls ever rehearse?). Far less effective is the screenplay, which has too many subplots that aren’t fully carried through, characters that disappear (like Katy Segal as Steinfeld’s mother) and lots of moments that feel like filler. We know early on the story is going to end up at a Copenhagen a cappella stage performance, but it takes the film forever to get there. Pitch Perfect 2 shouldn’t feel like a much, much longer movie than Mad Max: Fury Road, but it does. There’s a lengthy sequence, set at an a cappella camp, that feels like the sitcom spinoff of the movie we’re watching.
Hailee Steinfeld is a welcome addition, endearingly playing a nerdy new pledge in the a cappella sorority. The lovely Steinfeld is playing the one character who doesn’t feel like a caricature. The brilliant Keegan Michael-Key (of Key & Peele) has played better, funnier roles than “Beca’s Boss” (his actual character name) but he gives his moments an edgy snap that makes his scenes a highlight.
A little of Rebel Wilson goes a long way, as she unquestionably has her moments but her unfortunately named “Fat Amy” is mostly one easy, degrading, embarrassing joke after another. I wonder if Wilson will one day regret being famous for playing “Fat Amy” (in the same way poor Paul Giamatti had years of only being known as “Pig Vomit”).
Banks and John Michael Higgins return as two horrible inappropriate show commentators and are both trying too hard for the un-PC laughs. Considering how funny and more laid back Fred Willard and Jim Piddock were doing this in Best in Show, these scenes feel somewhat desperate.
I really didn’t care for the first film, with its serviceable soundtrack not salvaging a screenplay cobbled from bits of Bring It On and Glee (both of which I can’t stand). Steinfeld and Key are two big reasons the sequel is slightly better. I also liked the running gag on Kendrick’s “sexual confusion” whenever she faces her German opponent. There’s also Wilson’s bring-down-the-house rendition of Pat Benatar’s “We Belong,” a scene of romantic declaration that is the funniest in the movie. I want to be fair, as I laughed a few times but I’m also grasping at straws to think of nice things to say. Pitch Perfect 2 may have a voice but it has nothing important to say.
The previous film was overloaded with stereotypes, snide, catty dialog and characters who we’re supposed to find adorable but are mostly irritating. Not much has changed in this cute, mild sequel. This is one of those movies so saturated in everything currently trendy, we’ll one day look back at Pitch Perfect 2, roll our eyes and go, “that movie was SO 2015!”
To use the movie’s “hip” lingo, this isn’t aca-trocious, but it’s not aca-umphant, either. I feel stupid for having written that.