“We’re back Pitches” exclaimed the movie poster, and back they were. Released in 2015, Pitch Perfect 2 found itself in the brilliant position of substantially out grossing the first film by quite a considerable margin at the box office, and once again was greeted by warm reviews from critics.
With Elizabeth Banks this time in the director’s chair, the film was one of the very few in Hollywood that happened to have a largely female cast, a female director and a female screenwriter involved in its production.
Right from the opening performance that sees Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) hoisted in the air, a wardrobe malfunction causing her to accidentally expose herself to President Obama and Michelle Obama in the audience, and the resulting scandalised reaction from both the a capella community and the world at large, it’s clear that Pitch Perfect 2 is going to be (excuse the accidental pun) pitched a little higher in the comedic stratosphere than the first movie.
Everything in it feels more heightened, not least the fact that there is a full on musical number involving Amy serenading Bumper (Adam DeVine) whilst paddling on a boat towards him. The more heightened nature of the comedy and attitude of the movie could destabilise it, but it ends up being such an enjoyable watch that it’s hard not to go along with it and enjoy every second.
While the comedy and musical numbers are more elaborate than the first movie, it never drops the ball and once the film gets going, it’s hard not to simply go with it. It may up the ante in every way, but it never once falters the way many comedy sequels do when compared to their predecessors, especially the ones that hit unexpectedly in the manner the first Pitch Perfect did.
From that opening scene, everything is turned up to eleven as they say in Spinal Tap; Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins’ commentary is once again dotted throughout the film and becomes more outrageous as it goes on, Wilson plays a larger role than last time, with much of the humour coming from her character, and even the performances from the Bellas themselves are more elaborate than the first movie.
There is a danger with a sequel like this, especially in Hollywood comedies, to simply repeat themselves and it’s true that Pitch Perfect plays some of the same storytelling beats. Despite being victorious in the first movie, the Bellas once again stumble right out of the gates and have to fight their way back to respectability, as well as facing a skeptical crowd waiting for them to fail.
Things are on a more heightened level. in both the narrative, as well as the comedy. The first movie it was an American competition, this time it’s a World Championship, while going up against a competitive team at their college was the big threat last time, this time it’s Das Sound Machine from Germany, who means business what with performing epic renditions of already epic Muse songs the first time we meet them and delivering the funny by having one of their characters performed by You Tube star Flula Borg, whose inability to use the term “hot mess” is one of the film’s funniest highlights.
It could so easily be looked at as a lazy retread, but the comedy is legitimately funny, the characters are once again great fun to spend time with, the back and forward delivery from Banks and Higgins is a highlight and the final performance is punch the air brilliant.
Even newcomer to the group, Hailee Steinfeld fits in brilliantly, immediately standing out as Emily Junk (and yes, they make fun of the name).
Best of all, the relationship between the Bellas is played brilliantly. They have their odd arguments or disagreements, but throughout, the film presents a lovely portrayal of female friendship that feels genuine and real, even with the more overt comedic stylings of the film. The film really hits an emotional peak when go to a retreat, thus giving the film an excuse to bring back Anna Camp for an extended cameo (sadly no vomiting this time).
The film may just fall a little short of hitting the heights of the first movie, but it takes the audience along with it in such a way that it’s hard to resist its music and comedy set pieces.
Yes, you can see the story beats coming, yes you know where’s it going to go, and if you can guess where it’s going in the first five minutes, you are no doubt correct, but when something does what it does pretty well, and delivers the funny the way that Banks does with this, and the cast are as brilliant to spend time with as this one is, then resistance is futile.
Sometimes it’s best just to sit back, laugh and tap your feet to the music. A-ca fantastic.