Pitch Perfect 2 | Elizabeth Banks | 2015 | ★★★
Anybody who has read this blog for a few years, or who follows my Twitter account will know that I am a huge fan of the original Pitch Perfect. It is a film that had no business working, but it did since it made the most of its premise by having a fantastic cast of characters, irreverent comedy, great energy, and by being subtly excellent at every cinematic craft imaginable. I loved it so much that it ended up being my number two film of 2012 and recently made it to my list of the best films of the decade so far. So I was pretty excited for Pitch Perfect 2 since it was announced that Anna Kendrick (the heart and soul of the film) would return for the sequel. That is until the reviews started coming in and remarked on how hard it tried to mine for laughs by mimicking the best gags of the previous film, and that it spread its self too thin with too many subplots.
It was obvious that this sequel would have to go bigger, but the main plot remains as thin as the previous one as it concerns the Bella being disqualified from competing at a collegiate level after an unfortunate flash g incident involving Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), and the president. So, to clear the group’s name they have to do the impossible and win the World championship, which has never been won by the United States. But for Becca (Kendrick) this isn’t easy because she has to start thinking about her future and has to spread her time between the Bella and her new internship at a record label. There’s also a subplot involving a new Bella (Hailee Steinfeld), trying to fit it.
This isn’t really a lot to handle, but Elizabeth Banks, making her directorial début, doesn’t quite get it right. This leads to some awkward editing, and an off pacing that is not beneficial to the comedy. Also, the music numbers are choppy and the sound mixing makes the lip synching very obvious whereas it seemed natural on the first one. Jason Moore may have made his feature début with the previous film, but since he is a respected Broadway director he at least knew what it takes to make a great musical number.
My other big problem has to do with the Flo (Chrissie Fit) character. I’m not one to get easily offended, but having her whole schtick of being an illegal immigrant who went through a very difficult life and using her life experience to fill in dead air just didn’t work at all. It could have worked in the way Lilly’s one-liners worked in both films, but Fit’s comedic timing is absolutely horrible, and the fact that Banks directed her as a Sofia Vergara character made it all so much worse.
With that said, I enjoyed it greatly. Once again, writer Kay Cannon made the most of her plot by being self aware of it and filling it with the irreverent comedy that we expect from a 30 Rock alumnus. Also, despite the failed Flo recurring gag, there’s a great one involving Becca being unable to make any witty comebacks at their rivals Das Sound Machine. Finally, by adding Becca’s subplot, which gives the story enough credibility for us to care about what happens to the Bellas. I also liked that the music from the Bellas is lacking in the first two thirds of the film since a big part of the film is the members reconnecting to find their sound again, which made their final where they perform an original song much more powerful. Of course, the cast is still mostly great and their chemistry holds the whole thing together. Also props to costume designer Salvador Perez as once again, his work here is superlative.
Although Pitch Perfect 2 is not on the same level as the original, it’s far from the worst it could have been. The direction may not be great, but it’s a good first film for Banks and I hope she keeps directing. I love spending time with these characters, even if the film that accompanies them isn’t all that. Seeing how another sequel is in the works, let’s hope they give us a better, different adventure and that they learn from their mistakes with this one.